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.”
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.
“My granny fought for our Potlatch, and now our evolving system of governance in Canada needs to be fought for in the same way," @Puglaas says of her decision not to seek re-election. #cdnpoli
“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 The out-of-date norms of our first-past-the-post electoral system.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