No regrets in SNC-Lavalin affair, Wilson-Raybould and Philpott say

Trudeau tries to re-establish himself as a feminist and supporter Indigenous Peoples

No regrets in SNC-Lavalin affair, Wilson-Raybould and Philpott say

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got a first-hand glimpse of the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin affair when he addressed young women staging a mock Parliament in the House of Commons Wednesday: about four dozen of them turned their backs on him while he tried to explain why he had booted Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott out of the Liberal caucus the day before.

It was a rough start for Trudeau’s efforts to re-establish himself as a feminist and supporter of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

READ MORE: Grand Chief Phillip ‘disgusted’ with Trudeau for ejecting Wilson-Raybould from caucus

“There’s always going to be a range of opinions we need to listen to,” Trudeau told the women. “But ultimately, diversity … only works if there is trust and within a team when that trust gets broken, we have to figure out how to move forward.”

“It’s actually easy to stand in a place and cross your arms and stand in a place and say, ‘I’m not budging from my position because I’m right,’” he added later. “What is actually more difficult is to look for thoughtful compromise.”

Some of the women, delegates chosen to represent each of the country’s 338 ridings through a program called Daughters of the Vote, were unconvinced. They called him a “fake feminist” and doubted the authenticity of his commitment to reconciling with Indigenous Peoples — sentiments echoed by opposition parties.

“It was like a microcosm of the history of Canada, with a white man telling Indigenous women where they can and cannot be and exercising their power and their privilege over them,” said Riley Yesno, one of the young women brought to Parliament by Equal Voice, a group dedicated to increasing the presence of women in politics.

Yesno, an Anishnaabe University of Toronto student who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont., called Trudeau’s treatment of Wilson-Raybould “colonial violence” and further dubbed him a “fake feminist.” While she doesn’t necessarily believe he has “malicious intent” towards women, she said the expulsions of the former ministers “extremely negatively affect women” and “impact matters more than intention.”

Many of the same women walked out of the Commons altogether when Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer addressed them. Yesno said that was done deliberately, so their protest against Trudeau couldn’t be used as ammunition by the official Opposition.

However, Trudeau got some unexpected support from Philpott, who spoke a short time later, alongside Wilson-Raybould, outside the Commons.

Asked about the prime minister’s feminist credentials, Philpott said: “I wish him the best. I wish him the opportunity to continue his good work.”

Trudeau informed the two former ministers Tuesday that he won’t allow them to seek re-election as Liberal candidates this fall. Both said Wednesday it’s too soon to say whether their careers in politics are finished or whether they might run as independents or for another party.

“I would like to think that there may be steps, that I could continue in a political role somehow but I don’t know what that will be,” said Philpott, speaking alongside Wilson-Raybould. “It’s too early to say.”

“I need to take some time to reflect,” said Wilson-Raybould.

Wilson-Raybould believes she was moved out of the prestigious justice portfolio to Veterans Affairs in a mid-January cabinet shuffle as punishment for refusing to intervene to stop the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on bribery charges related to contracts in Libya. She has testified that she faced relentless pressure last fall from Trudeau, his office, the top public servant and others to override the director of public prosecutions, who had decided not to invite the Montreal engineering giant to negotiate a remediation agreement, a kind of plea bargain.

Wilson-Raybould quit the cabinet in mid-February and Philpott followed a few weeks later, saying she had lost confidence in the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file.

The revelation last week that Wilson-Raybould had surreptitiously recorded a phone conversation with Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, to bolster her contention of undue pressure was the last straw for Liberal MPs, who openly called on Trudeau to expel the former ministers. On Tuesday, Trudeau called the secret recording “unconscionable,” proof that the ex-minister could no longer be trusted.

“Trust is a two-way street,” Wilson-Raybould shot back Wednesday. “It is unconscionable not to uphold the rule of law.”

Neither Philpott nor Wilson-Raybould expressed regret for standing up for what they believed was right.

“You have to be able to hold your head high and look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say that the choices you made were the best ones under the circumstances,” said Philpott.

In the Commons during question period, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the whole episode demonstrates that “speaking truth to power” disqualifies strong women from inclusion in the Liberal party.

Trudeau said he’ll take no lessons from the Conservatives on feminism, noting that he still has “18 strong women members of cabinet who lead every day on the big issues that matter to Canadians.”

Trudeau ended the day at a meeting with Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and several other Inuit leaders and federal cabinet ministers, for a meeting of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, formed two years ago to improve the relationship. He promised to continue a path towards reconciliation on issues such as education, suicide prevention, and climate change.

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nelson has begun 2021 with a small rise in COVID-19 cases. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Ten new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

The cases were reported for the week of Jan. 3 to 9

Zoey Uniat is now three months old. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar baby with rare disorder progressing towards coming home

Fundraiser for Zoey Uniat has raised more than $50,000

Pioneer Arena is closing for the season. Photo: John Boivin
Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena and Nelson Civic Centre closing for season

RDCK is closing the ice at two of its arenas due to financial concerns related to COVID-19

A juvenile sturgeon in a B.C. rearing facility. The wild population in the Upper Columbia is estimated at 1,100 individuals, enhanced with roughly 5,500 hatchery fish. (file photo)
B.C.’s Upper Columbia sturgeon endure long battle with local extinction

Decades of monitoring and intervention is ongoing to save the prehistoric fish

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Most Read