Wilson-Raybould resignation sets back Liberal relationship with B.C. First Nations

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday

Wilson-Raybould, who was Canada's first Indigenous justice minister, resigned from cabinet on Tuesday, a day after Trudeau suggested her continuing presence in cabinet was proof she didn't think she'd been improperly pressured to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution. Trudeau informed the rest of his cabinet Tuesday morning about her decision and named Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to take over responsibility for the veterans-affairs portfolio.

Trudeau also said this week his office is seeking legal advice on the particulars of solicitor-client privilege from David Lametti, who succeeded Wilson-Raybould as attorney general.

Prior to Wilson-Raybould's announcement, First Nation leaders in B.C. published an open letter to Trudeau calling on the prime minister to "immediately and categorically publicly condemn the racist and sexist innuendo...being spread by unnamed elected officials and staff of your government in media reports".

When pressed, he said, "the issues, the prime minister has made very clear, do not effect the independence of our judicial system".

Recent statements from unnamed Liberal party insiders to the Canadian Press criticizing Wilson-Raybould's character have prompted backlash from all corners.

Cromwell is a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Her decision followed a bombshell Globe and Mail report last week, that cited confidential sources, alleging the prime minister's office tried to pressure her to interfere in the corruption case against the Quebec engineering and construction giant.

While the Prime Minister has faced many questions during the past five days over his decision to remove Wilson-Raybould from her role as AG, he has repeatedly said he did not "direct" her to make any decision and, just yesterday, the PM said that her position in cabinet "should actually speak for itself".

Trudeau has lost a unique voice in cabinet, especially on issues that are keenly important to British Columbians, said Ginger Gosnell-Myers, an Indigenous rights researcher and a former Aboriginal relations manager for the City of Vancouver.

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Then he said she had reconfirmed a conversation the pair had last fall in which he told her that the final decision in any federal prosecution was hers alone. For the time being at least, she remains a member of the Liberal caucus.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also called on the Liberals to support the committee's push to look into the allegations.

The federal ethics commissioner is investigating the allegations.

"If Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government shut the justice committee's work down, it would send a unsafe signal to Canadians about the state of our democracy", Singh said in a statement.

Liberal MP and justice committee chair Anthony Housefather told CBC's Power and Politics that he is "in favour" of studying the allegations.

"Obviously Justin Trudeau's trying to hide something", Scheer said.

SNC-Lavalin faces charges of fraud and corruption in connection with almost $48 million in payments made to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011.

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