British Columbia

B.C. MP Jody Wilson-Raybould named justice minister

High-profile B.C. First Nations leader and former Crown prosecutor Jody Wilson-Raybould has been appointed minister of justice by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Former regional chief of the B.C. Assemby of First Nations is 1 of 3 B.C. MPs appointed to cabinet today

As an aboriginal leader, Wilson-Raybould has said she honed her skills of diplomacy and became known for her ability to build consensus. (Jody Wilson-Raybould/Twitter)

High-profile B.C. First Nations leader and former Crown prosecutor Jody Wilson-Raybould has been appointed minister of justice by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Vancouver Granville MP is one of three B.C. Liberals appointed by Trudeau to cabinet on Wednesday morning.

Former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal was quick to offer praise for her appointment.

"I think it's fantastic that they've appointed somebody who's got some court experience and is familiar with the criminal justice system," said Oppal.

Wilson-Raybould earned her law degree from UBC and was called to the bar in 2000 and and began her legal career as a Crown prosecutor the same year.

From prosecutor to consensus builder

After four years working for the Crown, in 2003 she took a position with the B.C. Treaty Commission and was shortly after elected as a commissioner by the chiefs of the First Nations Summit.

Then-Assembly of First Nations B.C. regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, left, and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listen during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver on Sept. 11, 2014. (Darryl Dick/Canadian Press)

After working as a councillor for the We Wai Kai Nation, she was elected regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations in 2009 and reelected in 2012.

While serving as an aboriginal leader, Wilson-Raybould honed her diplomacy skills and and earned a reputation for an ability to build consensus.

"I sought to ensure voices were heard and that we built on the successes that our communities and individuals had," she told CBC News in an interview after the election.

"It is a world without political parties, a world where there are complex and often controversial issues on the table."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said Jody Wilson-Raybould's appointment is a key one, especially since the Liberals campaigned on a pledge to immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women.

"I think given her experience at the AFN level as well as being our regional chief for many years and her legal background will serve her very well," said Phillip.

Grand Chief Ed John with the First Nations Summit said Wilson-Raybould, along with the new Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, will need to set the right tone for any inquiry.

"It will be important to establish good parameters and guidelines, terms of reference for the commission to proceed with its work," he said.

A bitter taste of politics

Wilson-Raybould is one of eight aboriginal members of Justin Trudeau's new Liberal caucus.

But it was a meeting with then-prime minister Stephen Harper during the Idle No More demonstrations that prompted her decision to run for the Liberals in the 2015 federal election.

She later said she left the discussions with a bitter taste in her mouth and said the the lack of co-operation from the Conservative government influenced her decision to run for the Liberals.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, shown here in 2012 when she was the B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, speaks to media in Ottawa. She later said it was while she was sitting across the table from the prime minister that the idea of running for office was born in her mind. (Sean Kirkpatrick/Canadian Press)

Born in 1971 in Vancouver to Bill Wilson, a First Nations politician and UBC law graduate, and Sandra Wilson, a teacher, she is a descendant of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach peoples, which are part of the Kwakwaka'wakw from the northern end of Vancouver Island and the Central Coast of B.C.

She is also a member of the We Wai Kai Nation and uses her Kwak'wala name Puglaas, which means "woman born to noble people," as the name of her Twitter account.

Files from Dan Burritt and Mike Laanela