BIO: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould MP is a lawyer, advocate, and leader among British Columbia’s First Nations. As Minister for Justice and in her many roles, she has devoted herself to the advancement of First Nations governance, fair access to land and resources, as well as improving education and health care services.
NITV: Do you think that something had been missing in policy-making previously, as governments rather than working with Indigenous peoples, have been doing things to them, on their behalf?
JWR: Looking at both our countries, we certainly have a debilitating legacy of colonialism, where governments have discriminated against indigenous peoples. I feel quite fortunate to be an indigenous woman and to be the first indigenous person that is the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General of Canada. I think that speaks to how far we’ve come as a country, where it wasn’t too long ago that I wouldn’t have had the right to vote in our country.
There are laws that still exist that discriminate against Indigenous peoples, but we have to a transformative place in our country where there’s recognition that in order for our country to truly live up to its full potential, we need to embrace the diversity that exists within the country, and that includes Indigenous peoples. To have a Prime minister that says there is no relationship that’s more important to our government than the one with Indigenous peoples, really puts us on a new track.
NITV: Is there extra pressure on you as a First Nations woman in this role as the Minister for Justice and Attorney General to be able to solve everything? Is there an extra weight of expectation?
JWR: I do. I feel a tremendous responsibility in this position and all of the tasks, initiatives and actions that the Prime Minister has given to me. I think being an Indigenous person coming into this role I have, and Indigenous people have, huge expectations on me to setting the framework, which I’m committed to doing for a new relationship – a nation to nation relationship, based on the recognition of rights.
I’m very pleased to be part of a government that wants to and is committed to sitting down at the table, embracing Indigenous solutions.
There are enormous expectations of me by Indigenous people right across the country, and I think necessarily so. We as a government have a huge opportunity to embrace what Indigenous peoples have been asking of us for a long time.
NITV: What do you think Australia can learn from Canada in terms of the First Nations experience? What could you guys learn from us?
JWR: I think that generally, Indigenous peoples throughout the world can learn from our experiences in the past, both good and bad. For myself, and for our delegation that’s here, we’re very excited and honored to be the first non-Australian to present the reconciliation lecture at ANU on Wednesday.
I look forward to speaking about the history in our country in terms of the historic relationship, which was based on mutual respect and respecting the laws of Indigenous peoples and the government at the time, and talking about how that relationship changed over the course of the next 100 plus years… And how we’ve come back to the place where in our country we have Aboriginal and Treaty rights that are enshrined in our highest law, in our Constitution.
The opportunity that I now have, as the minister of Justice, and our government has, is to breathe life into what those constitutionally recognized rights mean. That’s the hard work that we have to do together with the Indigenous peoples in our country.