I understand the argument for letting SNC-Lavalin, Quebec's elephantine construction company, off the hook for criminal charges on bribes they paid way back in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya.
Conviction would stop them from bidding for public contracts, thus harming workers, pensioners, and the general good. Besides, there's been a process for de-hooking them in places like the U.S. and U.K., which has suddenly materialized here as well.
I feel less indulgent after reading Paul Wells' Maclean's piece that details the way SNC-Lavalin was responsible for that very recent wrinkle in the law, which lets it slither off the hook. It involved recruiting high-priced, top-level, former civil servants, supreme court judges, and media mavens -- done discreetly but legally, to make the wrinkle happen, fast. But I get it, they make a case.
Now imagine, as a thought-experiment, that you're an Indigenous person, a woman in fact, who happens to be justice minister and attorney general. You were courted and recruited, they rejoiced when you said yes. You got this post; it involves areas in which Indigenous people have suffered heinously from biased treatment. Meaningful change beckons. They say though, that you must prioritize assisted suicide and legalized pot. Those get done. You can finally turn to criminal justice reform, but hey, it's now almost election time and the party can't look soft-on-crime, a Tory pressure point. So foot off the gas.
Meanwhile, the man who killed Indigenous man Colten Boushie, is acquitted after a flawed jury selection process. That too can be changed, but not quickly. There's also the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, so inept that the only direction it seems to move is backward. Then along comes this corporation. They move fast and slick, and get exactly what they want -- provided you give approval to the process created by that recent wrinkle.
They moved heaven and earth for those guys, you might think, but not us.
I'm not saying this is what Jody Wilson-Raybould was thinking, or even that it's what she might've been thinking, or that it could've affected her decisions. We'll only know that when/if she speaks. But something useful could come from trying to imagine what someone in that rare position might think. It's a thought-experiment, like Schrödinger's Cat (from the Big Bang gang). It won't tell you what the reality is but it expands your sense of what's rattling around out there.
Like her community, of which she's been a vital part. Some advised against her going this route. Justin Trudeau and Gerry Butts, his lurking adviser, also have communities, but not as intensely. So they can hover above actual communities, calculating impacts on various constituencies, for whom they can allocate concern. But it isn't their own people on their backs, supporting and critiquing, all the time. There's a cost and a benefit to that kind of relationship.
We don't know what Justin Trudeau knows of what was said to her by Butts and his ilk. Still, everyone knows their clout is based on an awareness that they speak for the boss. They take on the nastier bits to keep him clear; it's how the game is played (including by you, NDP!). But Justin surely knew what an insult her demotion to Veterans Affairs was. Since then and since she resigned, he's treated her less deferentially than he's treated Donald Trump. That's on him.
Asked if he's still committed to reconciliation, he said, "We will continue to … walk this path together." I don't mean to be glib, but given the current expectations of social justice movements where you're intended not just to sympathize but to empathize and give way, that may be easier without an actual Indigenous person present. She's implied as much publicly. ("No matter what table one sits around … or with what title and appearance of influence and power, the experience of marginalization can still carry with you.")
If the current advice of the marginalized to the relatively privileged is, shut up and listen, I may already have overstepped. But the point of listening is to get smarter and more useful, and for that, you need to think and process. Maybe I should've just kept it to myself. But honestly, I'm just spitballing here.
This column was also published in the Toronto Star.
Image: Jody Wilson-Raybould/Facebook
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