Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs calls out 'racist and sexist' treatment of Wilson-Raybould

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is calling on the prime minister to quash what they view as “racist and sexist innuendo” dogging Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Chiefs say recent anonymous comments perpetuate 'stereotypes that Indigenous women cannot be powerful'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jodie Wilson-Raybould, new veterans affairs minister, attend a swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Jan. 14. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is calling on the prime minister to quash what they view as "racist and sexist innuendo" targeting Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.​

The former justice minister, who resigned from cabinet this morning, is at the centre of recent claims that the Prime Minister's Office pressured her to help Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

Over the weekend, The Canadian Press ran a story quoting anonymous sources who described Wilson-Raybould as someone who had "become a thorn in the side of the cabinet" before she was shuffled to her new role last month. She was also called "someone ... [who] was difficult to get along with, known to berate fellow cabinet ministers openly at the table, and who others felt they had trouble trusting."

A source, described as an "insider who didn't want to be identified," told the news agency that Wilson-Raybould, who took over the job as Veterans Affairs minister just under a month ago, has "always sort of been in it for herself," adding that "everything is very Jody-centric."

Those comments are "cowardly low blows," said a statement released Tuesday by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, shortly before Wilson Raybould's resignation went public.

"They perpetuate colonial-era, sexist stereotypes that Indigenous women cannot be powerful, forthright and steadfast in positions of power, but rather confrontational, meddling and egotistic," said the news release from the group, which has been critical of the Liberal government in the past on pipeline issues.

"These comments from your staff must be recognized for what they are — blatant sexism."

Investigation launched 

Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes also jumped to her caucus colleague's defence online, tweeting Sunday that Wilson-Raybould is "fierce, smart and unapologetic."

"When women speak up and out, they are always going to be labelled. Go ahead. Label away. We are not going anywhere," she wrote.

The B.C. chiefs' group — headed by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip —  urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "to take responsibility for your behaviour and that of your government," and called into question his commitment to the Crown-Indigenous relationship.

"If you do not condemn these harmful statements and apologize ... you not only reaffirm a colonial belief system that Indigenous women are inferior and disposable, but the hypocrisy of your professed feminism and 'most important relationship' with Indigenous people will be laid bare for all Canadians to see," the group's release concludes.

In her resignation letter, Wilson-Raybould said she plans to stay on as MP for Vancouver-Granville and has given no sign yet that she plans to leave the Liberal caucus.

On Monday, federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion launched an investigation into allegations the PMO wanted Wilson-Raybould to direct federal prosecutors to make a "deferred prosecution agreement" (DPA) — a deal akin to a plea bargain — to avoid taking SNC-Lavalin to trial on bribery and fraud charges.

Dion informed the NDP MPs who requested the investigation that there is sufficient cause to proceed with an inquiry.

Watch the Power Panel discuss the latest developments in the SNC-Lavalin controversy

Ethics commissioner probing SNC-Lavalin controversy | Power Panel

4 years ago
Duration 11:59
The Power Panel - Rachel Curran, Brad Lavigne, Yolande James and John Paul Tasker discuss the federal ethics commissioner's announcement that he's looking into the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

With files from the CBC's J.P. Tasker