OTTAWA — The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to press on with the process of reconciliation even after losing the lone Indigenous member of cabinet under a cloud of controversy.
Perry Bellegarde says in an interview today that First Nation people have questions about Jody Wilson-Raybould’s sudden departure from cabinet this week — days after allegations emerged that officials in Trudeau’s office leaned on her to help SNC-Lavalin bypass criminal prosecution.
While there will a process to get answers for her departure through the House of Commons justice committee and ethics commissioner, Bellegarde says the Liberals must push critical pieces of legislation, including a recently tabled bill on Indigenous languages and a proposed bill on child welfare.
He also says he agrees with a statement issued Thursday by a group of Indigenous senators that Wilson-Raybould’s departure is not a threat to the process of reconciliation but rather a measure of the distance left to go.
Wilson-Raybould, a former AFN regional chief, announced her resignation from Trudeau’s cabinet on Tuesday after The Globe and Mail reported she felt pressured to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
Bellegarde called Wilson-Raybould a “trailblazer,” adding she was nothing but hardworking, professional and strong during her time at the AFN.