As It Happens

'This is where I belong,' says newly-appointed justice minister

When Jody Wilson-Raybould's father predicted she would one day lead the country, everybody laughed. Today, she doesn't quite have the top job, but she is Canada's new justice minister.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould during a swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall, Wednesday Nov.4, 2015 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Fifteen years ago, Jody Wilson-Raybould was a familiar face at the downtown Vancouver courthouse where she worked as a crown prosecutor. This week, she got a big promotion. She's now Canada's justice minister.

Wilson-Raybould spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about her appointment, the challenges ahead and how her father is reacting to the news. Here is an excerpt from their conversation.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, left, is sworn in as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada during a ceremony at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Carol Off: All right, I will tell you what your Dad said today. As you know your father is very outspoken and he said, "I was worried that she was going to end up in the a-hole of cabinet, which is Indian Affairs, and be absolutely useless."

Jody Wilson-Raybould: (Laughs) Well, I have a tremendous amount of respect for my father, of course, and it's certainly not the words that I would use. But I think that the portfolio of Indigenous Affairs is a really substantive one and I'm very much looking forward to working with my colleague Carolyn Bennett in that capacity and in my capacity as minister of justice.

CO: All right, well, staying with your father for a moment because this is significant, there is a bit of tape, I'm sure you have run into it in the course of today. Many people are sending it out on social media. This is when your father [Bill Wilson] was First Nations leader in 1983. He was in constitutional discussions with the father of the new prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Jody Wilson-Raybould's father tells Pierre Trudeau his daughter wants to be PM

7 years ago
Duration 1:15
B.C. Chief Bill Wilson tells Pierre Trudeau at a 1983 Constitutional conference on native issues that his pre-teen daughter Jody wants the PM's job.
JWR: I remember vividly watching the Constitutional discussions in 1983 in my Grade 6 class. It was an incredible period of time in our country with the amendment to the Constitution and the placement of Section 35 within it. I think that the enormity of that moment, leading up to it, and my father's words, speak to the pride that he felt. Obviously, he is proud of my sister and myself and he taught us the responsibility of public service. I'm very proud to be continuing on with his teachings.

CO: So you were about 12-years-old then and did you aspire to be prime minister?

JWR: Well, I never actually consciously as a young person thought that or aspired to be a member of parliament or the prime minister for that matter. I certainly believe fundamentally in giving back and public service. I'm incredibly honoured to be in the position that I'm in, under a fantastic prime minister in Justin Trudeau.

CO: All right, what are your priorities? I want to ask you about a few of them. The Liberals promised to launch a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. This is going to fall into your portfolio. Is this a priority for you?

JWR: It's certainly a priority that we had during the election campaign and it's a priority we have as a government. I look forward to working with my cabinet colleagues, in particular the minister of indigenous affairs, on this very important and sensitive issue. There are a number of really timely and necessary issues that we need to address within my ministry.

CO: Okay, there is a big controversial issue, Bill C-51. A lot of people that we spoke to, Liberal supporters who couldn't vote Liberal or said they couldn't, because they opposed your party voting in favour of Bill C-51. Do you support Bill C-51? How much of it do you think you'll maintain?

JWR: This is something that we spoke quite openly about during our election campaign and it's our commitment to revisit that piece of legislation and certainly inject what is fundamentally required, in terms of the oversight provisions.

CO: A lot of people, in First Nations communities as well, are worried that if they are involved in a protest movement like Idle No More or Occupy, lots of members of the public are concerned that they could be arrested under terrorism charges. What do you say to them?

JWR: I had the opportunity to attend an assembly in July, in Montreal, with our then leader Justin Trudeau when he was speaking to the Assembly of First Nations. Aboriginal peoples standing up for their rights would not be terrorists. Certainly there will be more to say with respects to specifics in the weeks and months ahead.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full interview please click on the Listen audio link above.


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