Local dignitaries offered their congratulations, former teachers spoke glowingly, and friends and family were on hand to see Jody Wilson-Raybould inducted to the Comox Valley Walk of Achievement, on Sept. 23.
Wilson-Raybould, one of the most recognizable women in Canadian politics, grew up on Vancouver Island, and attended high school in the Comox Valley. Her personal convictions and commitment to ethics ultimately cost her the position of Attorney General of Canada.
After graduation from Highland Secondary, Jody became a provincial Crown prosecutor on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side and, following in her father’s footsteps, involved herself in First Nations politics. In 2003, she became a process advisor at the BC Treaty Commission, a body established to oversee the negotiations of modern treaties between First Nations and the Crown. In 2004, she was elected commissioner by the chiefs of the First Nations Summit, and served as a commissioner for nearly seven years, one and a half years of which she spent as the acting chief commissioner, earning a reputation for bringing opposing sides together in the complex treaty negotiation process.
In 2009, the 203 First Nations of BC elected her a regional chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations, and in 2012 she was re-elected winning 80 per cent of the vote.
Wilson-Raybould joined the Liberal party and ran in the 2015 election in the Vancouver-Granville riding. She won with 43.9 per cent of the vote. Following the election, she was sworn into cabinet as minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, the first Indigenous, and only the third woman, ever to hold that position.
During her time as minister, Wilson-Raybould introduced, and saw the passage of, 13 pieces of legislation most significantly an act permitting Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), an act legalizing cannabis use, and significant reforms to the criminal justice system and family law.
In 2019, under pressure from the prime minister and the Prime Minister’s Office, AG Wilson-Raybould controversially chose not use the Deferred Prosecution Agreement to defer prosecution of fraud and bribery allegations against the engineering/construction firm SNC-Lavalin. Her refusal led to four months of intense pressure from the prime minister and the Prime Minister’s Office to change her mind.
“It was wrong and an affront to the rule of law and prosecutorial independence,” writes Wilson-Raybould in her book Indian in the Cabinet –Speaking Truth to Power. “I was simply doing my job of ensuring the law was followed, and trying to ensure that the government did not engage in wrongdoing.”
Wilson-Raybould was ultimately removed from her AG portfolio, and a month later, removed from Liberal caucus altogether.
In the October 2019 general election, Wilson-Raybould ran as an independent in the Vancouver-Granville riding winning handily by over 3,000 votes and becoming the first woman to win an independent seat in Canada’s Parliament.
Wilson-Raybould stepped away from provincial politics in 2021, opting not to run for re-election.
Her latest book, True Reconciliation – How to Be a Force for Change is set to be released on Nov. 8.
-With files from the Comox Valley Walk of Achievement committee