First Nations leaders condemn Wilson-Raybould's removal from caucus

As Canadians digest the news that Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have been kicked out of the Liberal caucus, First Nations leaders in B.C. are expressing support for the two women and condemning Trudeau's decision.

Trudeau's removal of Wilson-Raybould inconsistent with his promises to Indigenous People, leaders say

First Nations leaders in B.C. are speaking out about the removal of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

As Canadians digest the news that Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have been kicked out of the Liberal caucus, First Nations leaders in B.C. are expressing support for the two women and condemning Trudeau's decision.

Many say the move is inconsistent with how Trudeau has continuously stated that no relationship is more important to him than the one with Indigenous Peoples. Others are questioning what kind of place there is for Indigenous women in Ottawa under the Liberal Party umbrella.

Those who spoke with CBC on Tuesday afternoon saw Wilson-Raybould as simply doing her job in Ottawa as it relates to the SNC-Lavalin controversy and do not support the way the Liberals have responded to the ongoing developments. That sentiment is not limited to B.C., and similar thoughts are being shared on social media across the country. 

Tania Dick is an elected leader for the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w First Nation — part of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation that Wilson-Raybould is from. She spent much of the weekend with Wilson-Raybould and their community at a ceremony and feast meant to uplift and support Wilson-Raybould. 

Seeing Wilson-Raybould do her job, then be "thrown out with the trash," is heartbreaking, said Dick.

She said watching the events of the last couple months signals to her that positions of leadership aren't safe for Indigenous women.

"It makes me think differently. I would never want to set myself up in such a manner where I'm going to be so disposable for doing my job and doing it right," she said.

While Dick says it's been sad to watch someone she loves going through this political turmoil, she said the support Wilson-Raybould has garnered across the country has also given her a sense of pride — and also hope, given the attention and support from non-Indigenous people.

Tania Dick snaps a selfie with Wilson-Raybould at a celebration for the former attorney general and justice minister in Campbell River, B.C. (Tania Dick )

"I've never seen that before," she said.

Looking ahead, some say they are wondering what the fall campaign is going to look like.

Judith Sayers, the president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council on Vancouver Island, said she doesn't see Indigenous people having much patience for hearing the same type of lines and promises from the Prime Minister when it comes to Indigenous people.

"He always says we're the most important relationship he has — but we haven't seen that come to fruition. And so I think we've all watched very carefully how he's treated Jody," she said.

"It's a very sad day."

'She was a good advocate for us'

While that sadness is perhaps most pronounced for Wilson-Raybould in B.C., Sayers and others are also disappointed to see Philpott removed from caucus and spoke highly of her work with Indigenous Services.

"Jane Philpott, she was a good advocate for us," said Sayers.

"Those kind of advocates don't come along very often."

With many unsure what the next move will be for Philpott and Wilson-Raybould, Bob Chamberlin was quick to say he'd welcome both women to join up with him and run for seats with the NDP.

Chief Bob Chamberlin and his partner Melissa Louie after winning the NDP nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. (NDP)

Chamberlin recently stepped away from his work at the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs after winning the nomination to run for the NDP in the May federal byelection in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

"They'd be a welcome asset to the NDP, no question in my mind," he said.

Chamberlin said when he thinks of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, he sees them as "two incredible women that have demonstrated to Canadians in every corner of this country that they have honesty and integrity as the foundation of who they are."

He's not the only one who sees the women in this way, and is concerned that people seen as bringing this kind of character to Ottawa could then be removed from caucus.

Wilson-Raybould's sister Kory Wilson expressed a similar sentiment on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, writing "Integrity has always lead you and I know that will not change. Truth will prevail and you will be on the right side of history."