The Comox Valley Walk of Achievement committee is pleased to announce the induction of author, lawyer and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould PC, OBC, QC – also known by her Kwak”wala name, Puglaas: “woman born to noble people.”
Born in 1971, to Chief Bill Wilson, a First Nations hereditary chief, and his wife Sandy, a school teacher, Jody attended Highland Senior Secondary School in Comox with her sister Kory. She and her family are all members of the We Wai Kai Nation of Cape Mudge, Quadra Island where Jody and her husband Tim live.
Following high school, Jody attended the University of Victoria and later the University of BC, where both she and her sister earned law degrees. Her father Bill also holds a law degree from that institution, only the second Indigenous person ever to earn such a degree.
After graduation, 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.
In 2013 Liberal leader Justin Trudeau approached Wilson-Raybould to join the Liberal party and endorsed her to run 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 (MOJAG), 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.”
In January 2019, with Wilson-Raybould holding true to her position and refusing to bow to political pressure relating to the SNC –Lavalin corruption scandal, and after three-and-a-half years as MOJAG, the PM shuffled her from the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada portfolio to minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence. A month later continued pressure relating to the SNC –Lavalin controversy eventually forced her to also resign from that portfolio.
In February 2019 following her resignation, Wilson-Raybould appeared before the justice committee’s televised hearings into the SNC-Lavalin affair. In April 2019 both Jody Wilson-Raybould and her long-time cabinet friend Jane Philpott, who had stood by her throughout the controversy, were removed from the Liberal caucus. Both she and Philpott continued to serve as Independent MPs.
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. Two months later, in December 2019, SNC-Lavalin pled guilty to a single count of fraud and ended paying a $280 million fine.
Wilson-Raybould announced she would not run in the 2021 general election “…instead shifting her focus to working outside of federal politics to create change for Indigenous people.”
That year she also published her book Indian InThe Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power, which became a national best seller, along with her first book, From Where I Stand: Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada. Her third book, True Reconciliation: How To Be A Force For Change, is due to be published by McClelland and Stewart on Nov. 8th.
At noon on Friday Sept. 23, Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould PC, OBC, QC, will be inducted into the Comox Valley Walk of Achievement at the Sid Williams Theatre auditorium. Everyone is invited to attend to share in the celebration. Following the ceremony attendees will step out to the courtyard (adjacent to the Sid) for the unveiling of the Wilson-Raybould’s plaque which will later be cemented, along with previous inductees’ plaques, into the Fifth Street sidewalk.