Federal Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced in a tweet Tuesday morning that she is resigning from cabinet.
In an open letter Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first Indigenous Justice minister and Attorney General, said that she ran for office “with the goal of implementing a positive and progressive vision of change on behalf of all Canadians and a different way of doing politics.
“My resignation as a Minister of the Crown in no way changes my commitment to seeing that fundamental change achieved. This work must and will carry on.”
Read the full letter here: Jody Wilson-Raybould
The announcement comes amid growing pressure for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould to publicly address allegations the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould, in her time as attorney general, to help Montreal engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.
Trudeau has denied any wrongdoing and Wilson-Raybould has cited solicitor-client privilege when asked to explain what happened.
In her letter Tuesday Wilson-Raybould says she is “in the process of obtaining advice on the topics that I am legally permitted to discuss in this matter.”
With a heavy heart I have submitted my letter of resignation to the Prime Minister as a member of Cabinet… https://t.co/Ejjh8smwYO
— Jody Wilson-Raybould (@Puglaas) February 12, 2019
She named Thomas Albert Cromwell as her counsel. Cromwell told APTN News that he would not be making any statements on the issue.
The PMO released a statement Tuesday saying Wilson-Raybould informed Trudeau Monday evening of her resignation, and that the prime minister then convened a meeting Tuesday morning to inform cabinet.
Trudeau will hold a press conference in Winnipeg Tuesday evening to answer questions from the media.
On Tuesday afternoon, Wilson-Raybould’s sister Kory Wilson told APTN she has been with her sister “through a difficult time since Thursday,” when the Globe and Mail first published a story containing the SNC-related allegations against the PMO.
Since that time, Wilson-Raybould has been the subject of both scrutiny and support.
Scrutiny for not divulging what exactly transpired between her and the PMO, and support for allegedly being put in the position.
“It’s obviously horrible to see all the things that people have said about her. But she did the right thing,” Wilson said. “I’m proud of how she has carried herself since Thursday.”
Wilson said her sister’s voice “will be missed” in cabinet “because there is no other Indigenous woman’s voice at that table.
“And any time you have a room or a space where those from other equity-seeking groups or marginalized groups are not represented, [that] ensures there isn’t a full and wholesome discussion with all perspectives represented. So I think it’s very challenging.
“When you’re the first of something, often it’s hardest,” Wilson said. “The first person paves the way for those who will come behind.
“She opened that door and I guarantee that there is a whole slew of Indigenous women and young women out there that will take up the fight and continue to ensure that the voices of the others are heard.”
Meanwhile, at the request of two NDP members, the federal ethics commissioner has launched an investigation into the matter.
Recent statements from unnamed Liberal party insiders to the Canadian Press criticizing Wilson-Raybould’s character have prompted backlash from all corners.
(Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail in 2015)
The Canadian Press quoted the sources as saying the minister, who is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation, had been “a thorn in the side of cabinet,” “difficult to get along with,” and “known to berate fellow cabinet members at the table.”
Last month Trudeau moved Wilson-Raybould out of the justice and attorney general portfolios and into veterans affairs, which many consider a demotion.
Prior to Wilson-Raybould’s announcement, First Nation leaders in B.C. published an open letter to Trudeau calling on the prime minister to “immediately and categorically publicly condemn the racist and sexist innuendo…being spread by unnamed elected officials and staff of your government in media reports.”
The letter, from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs’ executive, says the recent statements by reported Liberal party insiders are “cowardly, low blows aimed at discrediting the staunch work ethic Minister Wilson-Raybould has maintained.
“They perpetuate colonial-era, sexist stereotypes that Indigenous women cannot be powerful, forthright, and steadfast in positions of power, but rather confrontational, meddling and egotistic. These comments from your staff must be recognized for what they are – blatant sexism,” the letter reads.
Wilson-Raybould, 47, won her seat for Vancouver-Granville in the 2015 federal election.
She then became Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and Attorney General.
Prior to her entry into federal politics Wilson-Raybould, a UBC-trained lawyer, served as a councillor for the We Wai Kai Nation and as a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.
She also worked as a crown attorney and advisory for the B.C. Treaty Commission.
Addressing the comments from unnamed Liberal insiders directed at Wilson-Raybould, Wilson said she and her sister were “raised and taught that if you have something to say you say it publicly and openly, and you stand behind what you say.”
She also said her sister “doesn’t get down into the weeds and worry about what people say or think about her because she knows in her heart what she’s doing is the right thing, and that she’s, as she said, speaking truth to power.”