Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party made two fateful mistakes in the appointment of Jody Wilson-Raybould.
First, they underestimated her commitment to the law and her ethical framework that put the law before political expedience. Second, they didn’t realize that she came to government with an Indigenous agenda that superseded party politics.
Indigenous people have an interesting relationship with party politics; we see it as a means to an end and not an end in itself. We don’t regard political parties as our institutions but as non-Indigenous vehicles that can be used to meet our needs. This drives party hacks up the wall — they regard our party affiliation as shallow and superficial, and you know what? They’re right.
The loyalties of First Nations people extend from family to community and nation. By nation I am not referring to Canada but to our nations — Cree, Anishinaabe, Saksika, Nakota and so on. Anything else follows.
When our people enter the ring of partisan politics, it is usually because they have an agenda and want to make change. This might mean changing parties to accomplish it.
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When Wilson-Raybould spoke out about First Nations–Canada relations she was admonished by Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council. He told her it wasn’t government policy. He was the former Deputy Minister of Indigenous Affairs and he had his own unwritten agenda, but that never came out.
To Wilson-Raybould the legal relations between Canada and the First Nations include the constitution, the Crown, the treaties and so on. These are the bedrock legal instruments that define our relationship and don’t need to be policy.