Through out the whole SNC/PMO scandal, anonymous voices were coming out of the woodwork to smear former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and over time, those attempts failed miserably. That failure didn’t stop them, and even after she was removed from the Liberal caucus, it continued. But for the past weeks those smears have revolved around a decision that she took before she was shuffled, a significant directive for Indigenous peoples across the country:
This move by Wilson-Raybould was bold and much needed on the path to reconciliation. The directive she gave instructed the government to take a “rights-recognition-based” litigation strategy, which would take an approach to litigation that promotes resolution and settlement and seeks opportunities to narrow or avoid potential litigation. In short, it’s an approach to reach solutions through discussion, negotiation and in the true spirt of a Nation to Nation relationship and to stop the government practices of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars every year fighting Indigenous rights in court, only to lose over 95% of the time.
As a Métis person, I’ve seen this first hand in the Daniels case. That case started in 1999, as the plaintiffs in the case were trying to get an answer to a simple question: Who is legally responsible for the Métis? The Federal governments or the Provinces. That case was finally decided in 2016, 17 years later, to answer that simple question. Yet the Federal government fought this case tooth and nail for that whole time and think of the millions spend and lawyers time wasted on a case that they lost every step of the way. Why do that unless you’re trying to outspend and bankrupt your “adversaries”? It’s far from honourable behaviour, that’s for sure.
So, in making this decision, one that many of those smearers have been trying to put into question, Wilson-Raybould was trying to put the Liberal governments own promises into act. It was supposed to be a sign of true reconciliation and acting better. But as I said, it was supposed to. Today the intrepid reporter for CBC Jorge Barrera put out a report that seems to be another example of a broken promise from this government:
Okay folks, you should read this whole story because there are many things in there that are just damning to me for a few reasons. For starters, the judge in this case made his displeasure at the government and their approach very clear; you don’t openly ask questions like “Is it its intention to grind these 105 bands into poverty and bankruptcy before this matter ever proceeds to trial?” if you approve of the governments actions. He also points out that many of these plaintiffs are dying, so these are elderly survivors that the government is running through the ringer here.
On top of that disgusting piece comes the actual legal arguments that the government is using in their defence in this case. The government is arguing before the court that they still deny “there was a uniform residential school policy” and they are arguing that the feds are only liable for things that the churches aren’t already liable. Yes folks, they are saying before a court of law that Canada had no policy on this, despite the fact that Canada apologized 11 years ago for having exactly that policy. And to add to that indignity, they are basically using the “hey, it’s the contractors’ fault, not mine” argument. To me, this is just repugnant and this is exactly the kind of way the government has acted towards Indigenous peoples in the courts for decades now.
This was exactly that kind of behaviour and approach that Wilson-Raybould’s directive was supposed to stop. This defence screams of an attempt to wait the plaintiffs and their families out, again. This is nothing new when it comes to how Canada acts towards Indigenous peoples in these cases. Remember the Daniels Case I mentioned above? I forgot to mention that Harry Daniels, one of the plaintiffs in the case, died in 2004, 12 years before the decision would come. And sadly Mr. Daniels isn’t the only Indigenous person who we can say the same about, having passed away before the Government of Canada dealt with their case.
And folks, if you thought this couldn’t be any worse, it is. I’m just going to share this quote with you from the story and let it speak for itself:
“Ottawa also denies in its statement of defence that it breached the Aboriginal rights outlined in section 35 of the Constitution of any of the plaintiffs to speak their traditional languages, engage in traditional customs or follow their traditional governance.
“What Canada is throwing back at the Aboriginal people of Canada is … that you have to tell us what your culture was, you have to specifically define the parameters … and why language was important,” said Phillips.
“As if those aren’t self evident.”
Yes folks, part of the lawsuit from the plaintiffs revolves around the loss of language and culture, something that is well documented and clear. Yet the lawyers for the Government of Canada are denying this to be the case and basically saying to the plaintiffs “prove it”. Nothing says “reconciliation” like telling residential school survivors to prove that the loss of language and culture.
All this being tolled, it shouldn’t be surprising that the judge questioned the governments dedication to reconciliation, especially when he said “I hope that Canada will not simply continue to talk the talk, but will now walk the walk”. With her directive, Jody Wilson-Raybould was trying to hold Canada to that commitment and ensure that the Liberal government that she was a part of was “walking the walk” on reconciliation. And not only does it appear that the directive in question is being ignored, it’s also being used to smear her anonymously in the public. This all smells like a serious fail on the part of the Liberal government, one that I hope that they correct quickly. Decency demands it and reconciliation requires it.