The New Face of Justice in Canada

Newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had his new cabinet of Ministers sworn in. There has been a positive reaction to the diverse group of ministers appointed. One of the most notable appointments is that of First Nations leader and former Crown Prosecutor Jody Wilson-Raybould as the Minister of Justice. Her appointment has been praised, for several reasons. Firstly, she has extensive court experience and is familiar with the criminal justice system. Secondly, she is the first indigenous person to be chosen as a Federal Justice Minister. She is originally from an Indian reserve on Quadra Island. She is Kwakwaka’wakw, who are the traditional inhabitants of Northern Vancouver Island. The second reason is particularly significant because the newly elected liberal government pledges to establish a national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women.

Wilson-Raybould began her legal career as a crown prosecutor in 2000 after obtaining her law degree from the University of British Columbia. As a crown prosecutor she spent years working in Vancouver’s infamous Downtown Eastside, dealing with some of the most violent criminals in Canadian society as well as the most vulnerable. After working for the Crown for four years she took a position with the B.C Treaty Commission. Shortly after, she was elected as commissioner by the chiefs of the First Nations Summit. Wilson-Raybould also worked as a councilor for the We Wai Kai Nation. She was then elected regional chief of the B.C Assembly of First Nations in 2009 and re-elected in 2012. During her time as an aboriginal leader, Wilson-Raybould honed her diplomatic skills and earned a reputation for the ability to build consensus. In her own words in an interview with CBC News during the elections, she said that she “sought to ensure voices were heard and that we built on the successes that our communities and individuals had.” Her appointment as a Federal Minister is certainly a leap forward in her political career.

Upon her appointment, Wilson-Raybould listed her first priorities. The most urgent on her list are doctor-assisted suicide and the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Her appointment has been praised, particularly by the Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, who pointed out that she has great experience and education to bring to the table. Grand Chief Ed John with the First Nations Summit also applauded her appointment, expressing hope that Wilson-Raybould along with the new Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett could move forward with an inquiry.

Wilson-Raybould’s appointment as the Justice Minister is indeed a positive sign. Her background in the criminal justice system makes her qualified for the post. In addition, her background as an aboriginal leader and her knowledge of aboriginal law helps add a necessary dimension to the post at a time of high tension due to the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women that have gone unaddressed on a national scale. Her appointment arguably brings the establishment of a national inquiry into the issue much closer.

About Seema Kawar

Seema is currently a trainee Lawyer in Jordan. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Law in the UK and her Masters in Law in International Development Law and Human Rights from the University of Warwick in the UK. She has a deep interest in women’s rights and refugee rights issues and has volunteered a Sisterhood is Global Institute in Jordan, a local women’s rights organization, and as an assistant caseworker helping asylum seekers from various backgrounds in the UK. She is interested in learning more about the legal, social and political issues the hinder women’s rights and progress in the MENA region and contributing to improving the status of women in the MENA Region and other parts of the developing world.