Why we need to pay attention, Jody Wilson-Raybould isn’t the only one

Op-eds Opinions
Photo accessed via Wikipedia Commons.

The nebulous circumstances eclipsing former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould’s political and legal career has triggered polarizing opinions — many of which remain partisan and incomplete.

Further, the troubling allegations of undue pressure applied in the three meetings prior to Wilson-Raybould’s demotion in January has created uncertainty in the public and provoked questions — far too of many which remain unanswered.

Did the Prime Minister hire Wilson-Raybould because he believed he would receive political accolade for hiring the first Indigenous woman as Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada? And by offering Wilson-Raybould these positions, did the Prime Minister also believe he would receive personal gratitude from Wilson-Raybould? Did this perception drive him to believe a favour was owed to him, and that he could then direct his decisions through her?

Intention is imperative for interrogation.

And because a high-profile company is involved, it is essential to examine the allegation itself.

What does undue pressure mean? Is undue pressure a political euphemism for threats posed?

Safety then must also be considered.

Simply concluding that because the Prime Minister kept reassuring Wilson-Raybould that the decision was hers to make in the SNC-Lavalin case is a reductionist strategy utilized to dismiss allegations.

So how does this unfortunate situation relate to Canadians?

If Wilson-Raybould couldn’t escape the circumstances plaguing her career, think about how many Indigenous women are currently in a workplace situation that demotes them, fires them, or forces them to leave.

Adopting this question personalizes the situation and places responsibility on each and every Canadian to look into our lives to remember and re-witness where similar situations have taken place against Indigenous women. Taking part in this personal reflection provides the opportunity to examine and understand the shades of institutional violence Indigenous women experience in the workplace.

This critical approach also displaces the individual focus on Wilson-Raybould and merges her situation to Indigenous women across Turtle Island/North America, connecting it to the broader political and legal climate created to work against Indigenous women, no matter how qualified they might be.

For those unconvinced of the breadth of political and legal institutional violence that constantly displaces and subsequently makes Indigenous women disappear from the workplace, we need only look at the comments the Prime Minister made about Wilson-Raybould at the heels of her resignation and compare them to the respectful silence that followed after Gerald Butts, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, resigned.

If Wilson-Raybould couldn’t escape the circumstances plaguing her career, think about how many Indigenous women are currently in a workplace situation that demotes them, fires them, or forces them to leave.

The strategy of personalizing Wilson-Raybould’s situation empowers Canadians with the knowledge that we have the power to make a difference at our workplace by ensuring that Indigenous-led policies are created. In doing so, we can ensure priority and protection of Indigenous women in the workplace.

This, in turn, brings us closer to the goals of becoming citizens of reconciliation.