Business as usual or Time for Real Change

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt at unity and inclusion questioned

By Alwin Spence

Many people are blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the breakdown of communication in the government and in the Liberal Party, which saw the expulsion of two very important and visible cabinet minorities. Visible because they are both women and also, one, the Honorable Jody Wilson Raybould, is an aboriginal woman.
It is even more complex when we believed that the prime minister genuinely wanted 50% of his Cabinet to be women. He did not pay lip service to this issue; he went, found these women and brought them into his team. This was an honorable move on his part.
I do not believe it was politically motivated, just to make the prime minister look good, but Mr. Trudeau simply seized on an opportunity to do justice to women and other minorities. It is the thing to do as it was long overdue.
So what, then, is the true problem?
As far as I am concerned, the problem has never been a big company getting a break or being shown favouritism and receiving special treatment. No! No law was broken; there was no personal benefit to anyone.
So, for the prime minister to show a preference for the second penalty to SNC Lavalin for bribing officials in Libya in order to obtain contracts is really not the root of the problem.
The Conservative opposition had a field day blaming Prime Minister Trudeau and his government for interfering in the sacred duty of the Ministry of Justice and the office of the Attorney General, positions held by Wilson-Raybould.
Did Trudeau underestimate the impact of his significant new approach of gender parity in Cabinet? Was he expecting business as usual? Was it ethical to put pressure on Ms. Raybould via highly-ranked civil servants who tried to sway her?
The Conservative leader, for his part, would likely have behaved similarly with so many votes at stake.
What both men fail to appreciate is the weight of expectation on Ms. Raybould Wilson’s shoulders. As an Aboriginal woman, she has to behave with uprightness and with a clear conscience that her heritage demands.
She is also burdened with the weight of being an Aboriginal. She has earned the love and respect of so many First Nations people as a trail-blazer and role model. She cannot let them down by even swaying by just one degree from what is totally right, correct and acceptable. The responsibility to women and to Aboriginal people outweighs everything else.
Trudeau’s poor judgement was further displayed in his contentious relations with Celina Caesar-Chavannes, an accomplished Black woman whom he allegedly shouted at on at least one occasion. Even though an apology was offered, the damage was done and his credibility as a unifying leader further eroded. This appearance of male domination is not fitting in a party that espouses gender parity.
Ms. Wilson Raybould was driven out of the Liberal caucus simply for being herself and standing by her principles. She wanted to stay, and it was not for taping anyone that she should have to pay such a high price. She is banished because of the ignorance of the caucus and the prime minister not knowing how to adjust to these two new realities, women and aboriginal people in positions of power.
If it is not too late, and although it may be very hard to do, Ms. Raybould Wilson deserves to be back in the caucus. A family needs all its members, and when things go wrong, the family huddles together, deals with the problem and comes out stronger for it.
In spite of all this, I firmly remain a Liberal and I will continue to support Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party. But I must call a spade a spade, and I hope I have thrown a little light on the darkness that has overshadowed this dramatic political struggle for so long.

Dr. Alwin Spence is an occasional contributor to this paper.