Jody Wilson-Raybould says she will follow her grandmother’s lead and fight for a healthy and responsive government — just not from Parliament Hill.
On Thursday, the Independent MP for Vancouver Granville announced in an open letter to constituents she will not seek re-election.
“My granny, Pugladee, always challenged us to ‘ask yourself everyday—has what you have done today benefited the Indian community?’ She was a residential ‘school’ survivor who grew up to help maintain our Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw system of governance, the Potlatch, in the face of it being outlawed,” Wilson-Raybould wrote. “She was taken from her home to be ‘civilized,’ and she returned knowing she had to fight to preserve all that she valued.
“My granny fought for our Potlatch, and now our evolving system of governance in Canada needs to be fought for in the same way.”
She said it was not an easy decision, but since she was first elected in 2015 she has watched Parliament regress.
“It has become more and more toxic and ineffective while simultaneously marginalizing individuals from certain backgrounds,” she wrote. “Federal politics is, in my view, increasingly a disgraceful triumph of harmful partisanship over substantive action.”
“At the same time as we are dealing with the pandemic and reminders of a painful colonial reality, the effects of climate change are bearing down on us. Our country is experiencing the hottest temperatures on record, and whole villages are burning to the ground. If this is not a call to action, I do not know what is.”
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Wilson-Raybould said she initially thought the pandemic might make government work better, but it didn’t last. There was a brisk return to “self-interested partisanship, game-playing, and jockeying for advantage.”
She called partisanship the “crux” of the problem and asked if a pandemic, a growing climate crisis that is torching villages, and the reports of mass graves at residential “schools” were not enough to shake Canada’s old patterns, what would?
The problem isn’t about individual people in politics, but rather how democracy itself is practiced, she said.
“The privileges we give political parties. The out-of-date norms of our first-past-the-post electoral system. The lack of inclusiveness. The power of the prime minister and the centralization of power in the hands of those who are unelected. The erosion of governing principles and conventions to the point where there are limited or no consequences for wrongful acts undertaken for political benefit. The lack of courage to speak the truth—and the failure of bystanders to support those who do,” she wrote.
Wilson-Raybould did not say what her immediate next steps would be.
She did not immediately return a request for comment.
First elected as a Liberal MP, she became Canada's first Indigenous justice minister in 2015, but resigned from cabinet and was later ejected from the party’s caucus during the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Prior to federal politics, she was elected as the Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations in 2009, and re-elected in 2012.
John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer
I am sure that Ms. Wilson
I am sure that Ms. Wilson-Raybould is a nice person, but it took her this long to see Parliament as hyper partisan? Most will agree (myself included) that the first-past-the-post system is unfair and a relic from the past. That said, I think that she do much more to change it by remaining as an MP.
She obviously doesn't think
She obviously doesn't think she will win her seat in the next election (she is currently trailing in the polls) and/or realizes her inability to create meaningful change as an independent.
While parliament can certainly be toxic, I find it highly ironic she would be the one to utter the word in this situation.
Everyone, including her,
Everyone, including her, seems to pull their punches when it comes to stating the truth about where these negative changes, this "hyper-partisanship" in our democratic governance came from. It didn't use to be this way, so does everyone also have amnesia?
As an indigenous woman who was indeed personally, wrongly marginalized, and who is rightly outraged on behalf of all her people, she understandably leans toward "a pox on all their houses," but should really own that, and if she's actually concerned with the truth, she certainly should not be spouting bullshit "bothsidesism." It is conservatives who are clearly responsible for the current shocking deterioration of conditions in our parliament, and in the States where they have fully manifested (and are the model for cons here) the threat is to democracy itself. As Catherine McKenna says in her exit interview on Narwhal, "they doubled down so we had to double down." (She also insightfully pointed out that "they're just a bunch of men" and to them "it's just a game.") But it was them who initiated the destructive changes via the Reform Party (the Tea Party in the States) that have taken over a formerly FAR more progressive right wing, and are now variously described as the "religious right," the "extreme right," and the "alt-right." It's also generally agreed that the right wing has officially lost its mind.
On the first past the post problem, she, and others on the left have a point about the wrongheadedness of making the horse race THE thing (note the current media obsession, will he or won't he in every single piece) but leadership is crucial nonetheless. Remember the "Occupy" movement?
Not so much lost their minds
Not so much lost their minds as lost the plot and (for some) any sense of decency. For many their only ‘purpose’ is to win, and the surest way to do that is by unifying their base around stuff that they can all agree on, when all that they can agree on is what they are aggreived by and what they reject in others.
In some ways Mr. Trump was a caricature, but still an instructive one. He’d figured out that the American right in its present form doesn’t need policy to win when just a list of greivances and scapegoats (and villains) will do.
A couple of these comments
A couple of these comments sound somewhat sexist to me. I hear sincere dismay and frustration in what JWR has said, and some implicit constructive criticism.