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Indigenous Affairs
Federal Politics

‘Lessons to Be Learned’ Says Trudeau. So Let’s Name Some

The PM won’t say what SNC scandal teaches. Can we help him out?

By Tyee Staff 8 Mar 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s team politically interfered in the attorney general’s decision whether to criminally prosecute SNC-Lavalin burst into view a month ago in the Globe and Mail, a newspaper generally acknowledged to be widely read.

Since then, two cabinet members and Trudeau’s closest political advisor have resigned, and the opposition is clamouring for the PM to step down.

On Thursday the PM told Canadians he’d been thinking about the whole matter, and that he’s come to realize there are “many lessons to be learned and many things that we would like to have done differently.” A teachable moment, as they say.

But Trudeau, the former school teacher, did not say what lessons he’d learned, nor what things he should have done differently.

Attention class! Please get into groups and share ideas. Suggest things that might have been done differently in order for the nation’s first Indigenous justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, not to have felt politically threatened and then resign from cabinet. Extra points for lessons now to be learned.

To get the exercise going, we asked folks in the Tyee office to offer their thoughts. A sampling:

Don’t hire strong women and expect them to bow to you.

“We need a solution,” as your emissaries kept instructing the attorney general, is not a command that magically materializes what you want. It requires real and challenging work to achieve.

Repeatedly telling a cabinet member who is Indigenous that “we need a solution” to help a company with a history of corruption will likely cause the member to wonder why “we need a solution” is not the mantra regarding Indigenous rights and sovereignty in Canada.

Sometimes your solution is not the solution. Sometimes the law precludes it.

A white male born to highest privilege who campaigns alongside a noted Indigenous woman candidate while promising to advance reconciliation risks being seen to treat her as a token rather than a valued member of his cabinet. People will be watching.

Inviting that accomplished Indigenous lawyer to be attorney general signals you get it. She will have broad influence handling such diverse files as marijuana legalization, assisted dying and revamping the Criminal Code. She will inform a range of legal positions and policy shifts affecting all Canadians, bringing to bear her Indigenous experience and hard-earned knowledge, signaling a true “place at the table.”

Deciding to demote that accomplished Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, who has ably handled her duties, only to put her in charge of overseeing the Indian Act signals you don’t get it. At all. “Any person [with] even a basic understanding of Indigenous relations with the Crown would know that the most offensive and indeed racist legislation on the books is the Indian Act,” reminds Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. “It would be akin to asking Nelson Mandela to administer apartheid.”

Don’t advertise a new, woker Liberal party and continue to get your advice and playbook from the old boys’ network that your father did.

Similar to above, don’t only display your woke politics in photo op instances where you can get likes and media traction. Serving the public happens by building relationships in the pursuit of equitable solutions and honouring them. It’s messy and rarely makes for good social media posts.

Paying ransom encourages hostage takers. There’s nothing preventing SNC-Lavalin from holding 9,000 jobs and Quebec votes over the government repeatedly for as long as it lives since they know it works. And nothing stopping them from moving overseas anyway after DPA, as companies did after taking bailouts.

Do not let the Liberal-dominated justice committee have a whistleblower testify under oath and then have your closest ally counter her testimony while not under oath – then expect the Canadian public to give the two equal weight to “their truths” rather than the truth.

Keep your damn shirt on. After the month you’ve given us, it’s not cute anymore.

Well that’s what we came up with here in about 15 minutes on Slack. Over to you, Tyee community, to round out the lessons for our prime minister and all prime ministers to follow. Let the suggestions flow below in the comments section.  [Tyee]

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