Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the release of a new book that details her final controversial days in the Trudeau government ahead of next week’s federal election was not timed to exact revenge on the prime minister.
Wilson-Raybould, who served as Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, made the comments in an exclusive interview with Global News’ Dawna Friesen on Tuesday.
She resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet in early 2019 following a clash over how a potential criminal case against Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin should be handled.
In a political memoir titled ‘Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power’, published Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould alleges Justin Trudeau wanted her to lie to Canadians about what had happened, writing, “This man was not the leader I thought him to be.”
“It’s not my moment of revenge,” Wilson-Raybould told Friesen about publishing the book just days before the Sept. 20 election, in which Trudeau is seeking a third term in office.
She said she had announced her publication date well before the snap election was called by the Liberal leader last month.
“I feel that my experiences in government and relaying those experiences and the lessons that I’ve learned are important to tell,” she said. “I wanted to tell them.”
In the book, Wilson-Raybould describes conversations she had with Trudeau about what would later become publicly known as the SNC-Lavalin affair.
During a press conference on Saturday, Trudeau rejected the claims made by Wilson-Raybould in the book about wanting her to lie.
“I did not want her to lie. I would never do that. I would never ask her that,” he said. “That is simply not true.”
In August 2019, a federal ethics commissioner report concluded that Trudeau had violated conflict of interest rules by attempting to interfere in the corruption case against SNC-Lavalin.
The firm had been charged with corruption over its dealings with the Libyan government but, citing the importance of saving jobs, the government starting exploring the possibility of striking a deal — a deferred prosecution agreement. Wilson-Raybould, who was serving as justice minister at the time, was opposed to the deal.
“I had not realized until being in the centre of perceived power in government as a cabinet minister, how deeply entrenched partisanship is,” Wilson-Raybould told Global News.
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“The hyper nature of partisanship and the blind loyalty that I experienced is corrosive,” she said.
Despite that, Wilson-Raybould says she did not regret the time she spent in federal politics.
In 2015, Wilson-Raybould became Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general—- a feat she said she is still “incredibly proud” of.
After being ousted by the Liberal party in April 2019, Wilson-Raybould ran as an Independent candidate for Vancouver-Granville in the last federal election. She became the first woman to be elected as an Independent member of the Canadian Parliament.
Earlier in July, Wilson-Raybould announced she will not seek re-election and will instead shift her focus to working outside of federal politics to create change for Indigenous people.
Speaking about her personal experience as an Indigenous woman in the cabinet, she told Global News she has faced discrimination and racism throughout her life and career.
“I know that this is an experience that many women and individuals have in their work lives and it highlights for me how much we still have to do to ensure that all voices are heard, to eliminate systemic problems and discrimination — implicit or otherwise bias in our systems of government,” she said.
By retelling her story in her book, the 50-year-old is hopeful other Canadians can learn some lessons.
“I would say to any young Indigenous person, young or old, to any Canadian, that your voice matters and to get involved in politics,” she said.
With at least 75 candidates, a record number of Indigenous people are running in the federal election this year compared to 62 in 2019. Wilson-Raybould said there is more work to be done.
“We still have a long way to go to ensure that we’re not just saying we have diversity, for example, within our political party .… but we actually have to act on that diversity and listen to those diverse voices,” she said.
“I’m going to continue to exercise my voice. And I hope other people do as well.”
— with files from the Canadian Press