Marty Morantz

Over the holidays one of my goals was to read Jody Wilson-Raybould’s new book, “Indian in the Cabinet.” For those who recall the SNC-Lavalin affair, this book is the ultimate inside story told by Ms. Wilson-Raybould, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada at the time, from her perspective as the person literally holding back the barbarians at the gate. 

It is a tale of real-life political wrongdoing which ultimately resulted in Prime Minister Trudeau being sanctioned by the ethics commissioner and reduced to a minority government in the 2019 election. 

It’s a tale of how one person with great integrity stood up to the most powerful person in the country, and those who would do his bidding. At the core of the matter was the fact that SNC-LAVALIN, one of the largest corporations in Canada, was the subject of criminal charges relating to various alleged criminal dealings. 

Normally politicians never get involved in or inject themselves into such cases as to do so would result in undermining the independence of the prosecutor, and ultimately weaken the fundamental principal that Canada is a nation governed by the rule law and not by craven political interests. 

In other words, politicians should not be interfering, or attempting to interfere, in any criminal prosecution. But this is exactly what Mr. Trudeau wanted Ms. Wilson-Raybould to do in her role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. 

Justin Trudeau wanted her to interfere with the independent prosecutor and cut a special deal for SNC-LAVALIN known as a “deferred prosecution agreement.” 

Although Ms. Wilson-Raybould was repeatedly pressured to interfere by the Prime Minister, and others, she resisted all attempts to influence her, and ultimately stood her ground. 

And what was her reward for doing the right thing? 

Mr. Trudeau removed her from her position as Minister of Justice and Attorney General and ultimately removed her from the Liberal Caucus. 

Even though Ms. Wilson-Raybould and I sat as MPs at the same time from 2019 to 2021, I never did meet her. Reading her book helped me understand her character, what she went through, and the intense pressure she was able to resist. 

It made me pause to think how easily things can go wrong when those with political power ignore the rules that keep our society and our democratic institutions intact. It reminded me what a tremendous responsibility we have as elected officials to zealously guard the institutions that unite us all as Canadians. 

It also helped me understand her pride in her Indigenous heritage, the impact it had on her decision making, and the important work that remains to be done to make the path of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples a reality. 

For those interested in a unique and true to life first-hand view of a major Canadian political scandal and the lessons learned, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Indian in the Cabinet. 

Marty Morantz is MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley