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Jody Wilson-Raybould (born March 23, 1971), also known by her initials JWR and by her Kwak’wala name Puglaas, is a Canadian politician who serves as an Independent Member of Parliament for the British Columbia riding of Vancouver Granville.
She served as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in the cabinet of Justin Trudeau from 2015 until January 2019 and then as Minister of Veterans Affairs of Canada from January 14, 2019, until resigning on February 12, 2019.
Before entering Canadian federal politics, she was a Crown Prosecutor for British Columbia, a Treaty Commissioner and Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
Wilson-Raybould studied at the University of Victoria and later at the University of British Columbia.
Early life and education
Wilson-Raybould's mother is a Euro-Canadian and her father is a descendant of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-kwil-tach peoples, which are part of the Kwakwakaʼwakw, also known as the Kwak’wala-speaking peoples. She is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation. Wilson-Raybould carries the Kwak’wala name Puglaas which roughly translates to "woman born to noble people".
Wilson-Raybould is the daughter of Bill Wilson, a First Nations hereditary chief, politician, and lawyer, and Sandra Wilson, a teacher. She was born at Vancouver General Hospital. On Canadian national television in 1983, Wilson-Raybould's father informed then-Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau that his two daughters hoped to become lawyers and then Prime Minister some day. Her parents divorced when Wilson-Raybould was a small child and she was raised by her mother on Vancouver Island, attending Robert Scott Elementary School in Port Hardy, British Columbia, where her mother also taught, and later Comox, British Columbia, graduating from Highland Secondary School.
Wilson-Raybould studied political science and history at the University of Victoria where she was awarded her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1996. She then studied for a law degree from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law. She married Tim Raybould (b. 1966), a First Nations consultant, lobbyist and social anthropologist, on November 29, 2008.
Wilson-Raybould is a lawyer by trade and was admitted to the Bar in 2000 after articling at Connell Lightbody's Vancouver law firm. She was a provincial Crown prosecutor in Vancouver's Main Street criminal courthouse, Canada's poorest neighborhood, for three years, from 2000 to 2003. Terry La Liberté, a defense lawyer who treated prisoners with compassion, said, "She has now spoken to the victims." "She has worked with these individuals and made decisions about their future in a very positive manner." Wilson-Raybould said it was an eye-opening experience, "I always knew that there was an overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and vulnerable individuals in the criminal justice system, but it became much more apparent to me as I've been living in Mexico for almost four years." She also said that her experience as a prosecutor reaffirmed her dedication to public service and its importance.
She began working as a process advisor at the BC Treaty Commission in 2003, a body that was established to monitor the negotiations of modern treaties between First Nations and the Crown. She was elected commissioner by the First Nations Summit's chiefs in 2004. She served as commissioner for nearly seven years, one and a half of which she served as the acting chief commissioner, with a reputation for bringing opposing sides together in the difficult treaty negotiations process. Ginger Gosnell-Myers, the City of Vancouver's first-ever Aboriginal Relations Manager, then a youth representative on roundtables Wilson-Raybould's team, said she "felt like I was being heard for the first time in a process that was normally exclusionary." She went out of her way to make sure that this diversity was represented." She was a commissioner who pushed a number of treaty tables, including Tsawwassen First Nation, which became the first in BC to obtain a treaty under the BC Treaty Process. Wilson-Raybould was also instrumental in the establishment of a "Common Table" of 60+ First Nations and the Crown.
Wilson-Raybould was elected to council for the We Wai Kai Nation in January 2009, a role that she attributes to increasing her knowledge and commitment to work advocating for First Nations' governance. As a councillor for We Wai Kai, she was instrumental in assisting her community in establishing a land code and getting out of the Indian Act. As a result of all of this work, she was named as her country's representative to the national First Nations Lands Advisory Board (LAB), and later on, she was elected from among her peers to serve as a board member of the lab as well as a member of the finance committee.
Wilson-Raybould, the nation's finance minister, was also instrumental in We Wai Kai's drafting a financial administration code (establishing a framework for measuring budgets and monitoring expenditures), and becoming a borrowing member of the First Nations Finance Authority (FNFA). Wilson-Raybould was named the We Wai Kai representative to the FNFA by Wilson-Raybould. Wilson-Raybould, the FNFA's borrowing members, was elected chair in 2013 and 2015. The FNFA is a not-for-profit that pools the public borrowing requirements of qualifying First Nations and issue bonds on the strength of a central credit. The FNFA issued its inaugural debenture in 2014 in the amount $96 million under Wilson-Raybould. This issue was reopened in 2015, netting an additional $50 million.
Wilson-Raybould was the first elected provincial chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations in 2009. The provincial chief is elected by the 203 First Nations in BC. She has been credited with uniting the chiefs together, which has culminated in her re-election as the nation's chief in November 2012. She secured almost 80% of the vote in the first round.
Wilson-Raybould, the country's regional chief, focused on the need for nation building, strong leadership, and encouraging indigenous peoples to take the necessary action to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the acknowledgement of aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. She concentrated on rebuilding relationships between First Nations and BC and Canada by supporting 1) the cause of First Nations' robust and appropriate government, 2) increased education, and 4) individual wellbeing. Wilson-Raybould co-authored the BCAFN Governance Toolkit: A Guide to Nation Building in 2011. Part 1 of the Governance Toolkit – The Governance Report, which has been lauded as Canada's most comprehensive study, details what First Nations in BC are doing with respect to transitioning their governance from under the Indian Act to a post-colonial world based on recognition of aboriginal title and rights.
Wilson-Raybould and the BCAFN unveiled Part 2 of the Governance Toolkit in 2012: From the Post-Colonial Door, Navigating Our Way Beyond the Post-Colonial Door. In 2014, a second edition of The Governance Report was published. Wilson-Raybould and the BCAFN released A User's Guide to the BCAFN Governance Toolkit in 2015: Supporting Leaders of Change.
Wilson-Raybould served as a member of the Chiefs Committee on Claims (which included changes to reserve and specific claims) and chaired the comprehensive claims joint working group, which included contributions to reserve and specific allegations. Wilson-Raybould's first term as Regional Chief worked with colleagues, including Senator Gerry St. Germain, to introduce Bill S-212, the First Nations Self-Government Recognition Act. Following the construction of an internal constitution and a community ratification vote on a self-government plan, this Senate public bill would have provided a platform for First Nations to be recognized by the federal government as "self-governing." The bill was rejected on the order paper.
Wilson-Raybould attended the 2012 Crown-First Nations Gathering, giving a strong message on the importance of first Nations reforms, as well as moving beyond the Indian Act to ensure a healthy economy. Wilson-Raybould attended high-level talks with then Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the aftermath of the Idle No More demonstrations and amid scathing remarks from some First Nation leaders, Wilson-Raybould was involved in high-level talks with then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She was worried that no progress had been made nationally on First Nations' problems since the 2012 First Nations-Crown Gathering and proposed concrete solutions to these problems. She gave her advice quite simply: societies that rule well do better economically, socioeconomically, and politically than those that do not. Good governance increases the odds of satisfying the needs of their peoples and generating long-term economic growth, and First Nations are no exception.
Wilson-Raybould cites the Conservative government's lack of change during this period as one of her reasons for running for the federal Liberals in the 2015 federal election.
Wilson-Raybould has been a Capilano University director. Wilson-Raybould, a former board member of the Minerva Foundation for BC Women (2008-2010), was instrumental in the creation of the "Combining Our Strength Initiative," a collaboration of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women. Wilson-Raybould has served as both Director of the Lands Advisory Board and Chair of the First Nations Finance Authority, as well as being a curator of the Nuyumbalee Cultural Centre since 2013.
Wilson-Raybould has spoken out in public on topics such as aboriginal law, treaties, the planet, financial transparency, and reconciliation. She made several presentations before federal panels, including the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and Northern Development. Wilson-Raybould has travelled extensively to work on Indigenous peoples' rights and leadership issues, including to the Philippines, Taiwan, and Israel.