Cross Country Checkup

Reporter at Wilson-Raybould's celebration feast says she has 'no regrets' over recorded call

A day after the release of Jody Wilson-Raybold's secretly recorded phone call with the outgoing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick, the former attorney general was celebrated in a Big House ceremony at her B.C. First Nation. David P. Ball was the only journalist invited.

The only journalist at the event, David P. Ball spoke with the former AG about the SNC-Lavalin affair

A traditional ceremony honouring the former attorney general was held at her B.C. First Nation on Saturday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
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A day after the release of Jody Wilson-Raybold's secretly recorded phone call with the outgoing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick, the former attorney general was celebrated in a Big House ceremony at her B.C. First Nation.

The four-hour feast took place Saturday evening and featured speeches and dancing in honour of the Vancouver Granville MP.

Star Vancouver reporter David P. Ball was the only journalist invited into the ceremony. He told Cross Country Checkup host Duncan McCue that the former justice minister was defiant in the face of criticism for the secretly recorded call.

"She said ... because the Kwagiulth are an oral culture, 'If you don't speak the truth, then your culture dies,'" Ball told McCue.

Ball shared his recollections of the evening Sunday on Checkup. This is part of that conversation.

She said that the most important thing has always been to ask yourself what is the truth that she needs to tell- David Ball, The Star Vancouver

What were people saying about her role in government as a Liberal MP so far?

What people were saying — it's essentially a series of dances and storytelling that kind of goes back to the origin stories of the Kwakwaka'wakw people and then kind of tells moments of their history, and how each of the house clans and hereditary chiefs came to be that kind of thing.

So, basically they showered her in eagle down feathers. They gifted her with these otter pelts. And then, one by one, she got up and paid respects.

Only a couple actually referenced the political situation that she's sparked here with SNC-Lavalin. Many of them just simply talked about the goodness and truth within the tradition, but generally about the sense of values and morals and the history.

So, it wasn't ... a partisan event in any stretch or even one that was overt — you wouldn't have gotten many headlines out of the speeches to be honest. It was just a lot of people kind of expressing traditional respect for her.

You said that she got emotional as she was being honoured in this way. You got a chance to talk with her. What did you talk about when she talked with you?

I got the honour of sitting at the head table, which is unusual, but I've been getting to know her sister a bit hoping for an interview that we've all been trying for in the media. And also just to kind of figure out what's driving her, what's the end game for her, right?

I agreed not to ask any hard questions until the dinner and feast are over and all the speeches.

At the very end, with the eagle down still on her hair, we just talked about where she gets her strength from. If she has any regrets because there's all these concerns about her secretly taping the call. About the damage it is doing to your party ahead of the election. All this stuff, right?

She said she had no regrets. She said that the most important thing has always been to ask yourself what is the truth that she needs to tell.

She said ... because the Kwagiulth are an oral culture, 'If you don't speak the truth, then your culture dies.' That's what she said to me. So I found that very interesting.

She definitely says that she's still telling the truth about this, and she also said that the ceremony has kind of emboldened her to go back to Ottawa with that sense again of support and her culture for whatever is next in this SNC-Lavalin affair.

Did anyone at all talk about the phone recording? 

Yeah, a few people did. Jody didn't.

But a few of the fellow chiefs and supporters, I don't think it would be a surprise to say that many of them have a mistrust in the Canadian government institutions based on their history.

The few that I asked about it who wanted to talk said that they weren't surprised that she would do that [and] that they would have done it too, because even if it was something that seems unusual or even unethical, the larger truth of the situation was that she would be railroaded and that people would try to smear her or question her.

I would say that people were sympathetic, but I don't think that was surprising. To me, it was more a question of people weren't so concerned about the ins and outs of this particular scandal, but more about their community members and family members standing up for what they believe in — which is kind of as an ambassador of Indigenous cultures more broadly.

A lot of different cultures were there and said they felt proud as Indigenous people; that she was kind of bringing this outsider perspective to Ottawa on a situation that probably would have just been handled the way Trudeau wanted to under any other government.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.