Wilson-Raybould's testimony was not about the 'rule of law'

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What was that about, when Jody Wilson-Raybould testified?

It wasn't "rule of law" since she never calls what the government did illegal. She explicitly said it wasn't. It was "inappropriate."

Nor was it about Justin Trudeau losing the "moral right (or mandate) to govern," making that sound like a shiny object they hand you when you win an election. Or "clearly" crossing a line (Andrew Coyne) since there's no clear line.

She objected to the "barrage of people hounding me and my staff." She was impressively firm on stuff like the "constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence." Yet also a bit abstract and intellectual. It's Trudeau who said he's motivated by job loss and the impacts on people. And she agreed it was OK to raise job issues, though once she'd been damn clear about her decision they should've laid off. Yet why wouldn't they continue pressing if grave matters are involved, and not just "in the early stages?"

Sheer persistence is often what gets things done -- sometimes it takes generations. I don't even think the "political" concerns Trudeau voiced were illegitimate. You must be elected to achieve what you believe -- on, say, climate change, even if it's in pathetically limited ways. If the Tories win next fall, even that'll be undone. If you care about jobs/climate, then you have to win. No one's suggested Trudeau's political motive is mere money or power.

That's why I think Wilson-Raybould could've gone either way on rule of law, and that other things are involved. Near the end of her statement, she said "Crown-Indigenous relations" in Canada "includes a history of the rule of law not being respected" and that "foundational value" wasn't always "upheld."

So there it is: she's simultaneously striking a blow on behalf of Indigenous peoples. Suddenly it's no longer abstract, it's very concrete. She's had it with liberal/Liberal well-intentioned crap. SNC-Lavalin gets fast action from the law, we get delays. She found an infuriatingly calm, Canadian way of detonating a deeply laid bomb that's been ticking since the arrival of European settlers.

It's key that she's actually part of two nations. She'd rather not choose (she still calls Canada "the greatest country in the world") but if she must separate from one, another remains. That isn't unique, in a Canada that includes Quebec. When Lucien Bouchard bolted from federal Tories after the Meech Lake fiasco in 1992, he went home to Quebec, created a separatist party (the Bloc), and became premier of his own "nation," Quebec. She doesn't have to become that classic Western figure: the isolated, principled individual.

Less evident I think is the feminist context. "It was hard not to watch and wince," wrote Liz Renzetti. It was mostly guys who came at her persistently, and they came at her in a guy way. The last straw before she quit was Trudeau saying, "Her presence in cabinet speaks for itself." Men speaking for women.

The weird thing is Trudeau was probably the best chance for advancing both Indigenous rights and feminism in a conventional politician. I don't think he's lying when he professes them. But they're hard to deliver in the context of a single lifetime that's conditioned by your own and your society's past, and an electoral politics riddled with garbage and debris like first-past-the-post, big corporate donors and powerful voting blocs. I don't think this mess was unavoidable but it would've taken very astute planning, plus lots of luck.

You could almost see Wilson-Raybould cringe at being embraced by Tories and NDPers on the committee. I exclude Conservative Lisa Raitt, who put the Barbara Frum question -- Are you bitter? -- and who gets a pass because of her magnificent humanity in getting a drunken Elizabeth May offstage years go. If she and Wilson-Raybould got together and formed a party, I'd probably vote for them.

So I think it's murky but I'm more with her than with them. Still, it's close. Maybe 45 per cent with them, 55 per cent with her. It was political psycho-socio-drama of the most earnest, worthwhile sort. Not many things are more crucial than jobs and who governs, but the fights for Indigenous restitution and women's equality are among them, if you must choose, as sometimes you must.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Image: Jamie McCaffrey/Flickr

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