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News > Canada

Trudeau Angers Indigenous Community After Axing Whistleblowers

  • Former Canadian justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

    Former Canadian justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 April 2019

"There’s going to be an enormous backlash across the country,” said Union President Steward Phillip.

Canadian Prime Minister (PM) Justin Trudeau has expelled former justice minister and ex-attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, and former Treasury Secretary Jane Philpott from the Liberal Caucus, triggering a backlash from the Indigenous community.


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“Once again, Mr. Trudeau has demonstrated his arrogance and did absolutely the worst thing he could possibly do. There’s going to be an enormous backlash across the country in terms of Indigenous people,” President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Steward Phillip said.

Both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott resigned from Trudeau's cabinet in the last couple of months due to their roles as whistleblowers in what is considered the biggest political scandal in the PM's career. The SNC-Lavalin scandal leaves Trudeau's cabinet accused of inappropriately interfering in the engineering giant's corruption case.

On Friday, Wilson-Raybould presented a secretly recorded phone call between her and the Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick as evidence in what the former MP refers to as an ongoing campaign to pressure her into taking measures to prevent a criminal proceeding for SNC-Lavalin.

In the recording, Wernick can be heard telling Wilson-Raybould that Trudeau was "quite determined" to "find a way to get it done one way or another," referring to a remediation agreement for the company.

In a written statement, Wilson-Raybould admits that the recording was an "extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step," but explained that it was the only way to maintain an accurate account of discussions surrounding the SNC-Lavalin case, which caused both her and Philpott to be booted from the Liberal caucus.

Before the emergency meeting on Parliament Hill, where the MPs made the decision to expel the two former ministers, Wilson-Raybould wrote a letter in hopes that they would allow her to remain in the party.

“I am angry, hurt and frustrated because I feel and believe I was upholding the values that we all committed to. In giving the advice I did and taking the steps I did, I was trying to help protect the prime minister and the government from a horrible mess," Wilson-Raybould expressed in the letter.

Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne questioned the former minister's ethics regarding the recording, while Tourism Minister Melanie Joly referred to the act as "fundamentally wrong."

PM Trudeau told reporters, "The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken," and "if they can't honestly say they have confidence in this team... then they cannot be a part of this team."

While the Liberal party has been firm in this decision, Phillip calls it a "mortal, self-inflicted wound," saying that it would lose them the Indigenous vote in upcoming elections. Political scientist David Moscrop reaffirms Phillip's statement, stating, “the Liberals were bolstered by a growth in youth turnout and Indigenous turnout that went to work for them. Those are going to be hard to recapture this time around.”

Wilson-Raybould has announced her plan to remain an independent MP until the end of her term, as well as hinted at the option of running as an independent in the upcoming election. Before confirming that decision, she tweeted that she would "take the time to reflect & talk to my supporters about what happens next."

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