Aboriginal affairs among biggest outstanding policy issues: Jody Wilson Raybould

The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – A former Assembly of First Nations regional chief-turned-federal MP says she’s confident the Liberal government can reshape Ottawa’s strained relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was elected last week in the riding of Vancouver Granville, says Aboriginal affairs remain among the biggest public policy issues that must be addressed.

“I certainly look forward to being part of a team that moves this important agenda piece forward,” said Wilson-Raybould.

The Liberal MP, considered by some to be a possibility for Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, says she wants to see a partnership created between the federal government and First Nations.

Wilson-Raybould says she encountered a lack of engagement when she was regional chief and that must change.

“What we are looking at is forging a relationship that’s based on having a partner in the federal government and us partnering with the Indigenous Peoples of this country to develop joint solutions and assisting in moving forward in true reconciliation.”

The Liberals have promised the road toward reconciliation will involve greater funding for First Nations education and an inquiry on the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

As the new government tackles the problems, people must be mindful of the strained historic relationship between the Crown and First Nations, Wilson-Raybould says.

“I think that relationships are hard and need to be worked on,” she said. “Trust is built over time and certainly that’s something we are committed to doing.”

As an Aboriginal leader, Wilson-Raybould said she honed her skills of diplomacy and became known for her 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 said. “It is a world without political parties, a world where there are complex and often controversial issues on the table.”

Wilson-Raybould believes she can bring bridge-building skills to caucus and to Parliament on policy issues such as the environment.

As far as a cabinet role is concerned, Wilson-Raybould would only say she would be “happy to serve at the pleasure of the prime minister” if she is offered a front-bench position next week.

The former B.C. Crown prosecutor was among First Nations leaders who met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the Idle No More protests in January 2013.

Those talks, which were strongly opposed by a number of chiefs across Canada, took place before a backdrop of dramatic Aboriginal unrest and a high-profile First Nations hunger protest in Ottawa.

Wilson-Raybould, who left the discussions with a bitter taste in her mouth, says a lack of co-operation from the Conservative government influenced her decision to run for the Liberals.

She is one of eight Aboriginal members of the new Grit caucus.