THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Naomi Sayers Headshot

Is Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould Willing To Ask The Hard Questions?

Posted: Updated:
JODY WILSON RAYBOULD
Chris Wattie / Reuters
Print

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould writes,

"And I challenge the critics that say it cannot be done - those, who on the one hand, say the government is not serious or sincere, and on the other, say that Indigenous peoples do not have what it will take or the resolve or that the task is too great."

Nobody is saying that "it" cannot be done.

It being decolonization.

While I expected more from someone who has a legal background, I lowered those expectations when such comments come from someone in politics; it is all a smoke show.

Justice Minister writes and talks as if the burden should be on Indigenous nations. Specifically, she says,

"That is, how will you define yourselves as Nations? What are the structures through which you will deliver programs and services? And, then, what will your relationship with Canada, with your neighbours, and with other Indigenous Nations, look like? How will you resolve your differences between and amongst yourselves?"

These conversations have been happening for many years, if not decades before the current Liberal government--perhaps, since Confederation.

In fact, when Papa Trudeau proposed the Constitution, which she and other lawyerly types have learned about during their legal training or elsewhere (I am hoping and assuming), it was the Indigenous nations and leaders who intervened to ensure Indigenous voices were being heard at the implementation stage.

Yet, it is this same document that prevents the very things Justice Minister questions: delivery of programs; relationships with other jurisdictions (namely, Canada), and a vague reference to conflict-resolution styles.

The problem is not whether "it" can be done; rather, the question is how far is the federal government willing to go to give up its power to fully and meaningfully recognize the jurisdiction of Indigenous nations?

By suggesting that the Indian Act has to go in order to solve these problems, Justice Minister (regrettably) reaches for the lowest hanging fruit. Sure, that is the most obvious solution to what Justice Minister positions as "the social and economic gaps" problem which "will never be fully closed until the foundational work of Nation rebuilding has been completed... the Indian Act gone." But what is this "Nation rebuilding" Justice Minister speaks of? Does "Nation rebuilding" actually address the constitutional/jurisdictional issues relating to administrative structures? Delivery of programs? Relationships with Canada? Or, conflict resolution?

There is not life to be born out of Section 35; Canada's highest court has established that the power already lies in the Crown. Perhaps, the problems lie within Canada's alleged higher jurisdictional powers embedded within the constitution which ultimately ignore Indigenous nations' authority to govern themselves--or, explicitly the sections that hinder decolonization.

I was proud of an Indigenous woman being named the new Justice Minister. But sadly, I am let down by the current government with parading another Indigenous woman, and other Indigenous persons, out when it conveniences them, at a moment's notice to disregard criticism of the party's actions.

If Justice Minister asks, "Are we ready to finish the unfinished business of Confederation?" and by that Justice Minister means, getting rid of the Indian problem--then yeah, the government is well on its way on the right track by ignoring the actual constitutional issues and jurisdictional issues (where the jurisdictional issues ultimately speak to the constitutional issues).

I had hope and optimism. As of late, I have hopelessness.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook

ALSO ON HUFFPOST: