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First Indigenous justice minister 'demoted' in cabinet shuffle: political scientist

Last Updated Jan 14, 2019 at 11:17 am PDT

FILE: Jody Wilson-Raybould, then Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, makes an announcement on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – It isn’t being touted as one by the prime minister, but Justin Trudeau’s decision to remove Jody Wilson-Raybould from her position as Justice Minister is being seen by some as a demotion.

The Vancouver-Granville MP has been celebrated as Canada’s first ever Indigenous Justice Minister, but Sanjay Jeram, a political scientist with Simon Fraser University, doesn’t see her role-change as a result of Monday’s cabinet shuffle as necessarily a good thing.

“Trudeau came out and said that it’s not a demotion, and Jody Wilson-Raybould also agreed that she didn’t feel like she was being demoted but, obviously, this is a lot of public posturing behind the scenes. It’s really tough to say, but it’s hard to imagine that she’s not a bit disappointed.”

He adds the move comes at a time when the federal government’s relations with First Nations are strained — most recently in B.C., where Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation blocked work on an LNG pipeline.

“The optics aren’t good,” Jeram says. “The optics, especially given the issues the Trudeau government has had fulfilling its mandate to reconcile with First Nations.”

Still, he leaves the door open to this being a larger strategy.

He says the Liberals are weak with veterans and putting a more established voice in that role may be an effort to win more support in that demographic ahead of this year’s election.

Meantime, a political pundit says he’s shocked by the decision.

Warren Kinsella agrees this decision could put strains on any progress the federal government has made in ongoing issues, like land claims.

“This is a guy who promised to end boil-water advisories in his platform by the time the next election rolls around. This is a guy who promised kind of a new era in Indigenous relations with the federal government,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“Jody Wilson-Raybould is not just competent, she is a woman, she is an Indigenous leader, and she did a really good job in justice,” Kinsella adds.

The former Liberal Party strategist says it’s a joke to move her to Veterans Affairs.

Kinsella also questions why Jane Philpott was shuffled from Indigenous Services to Treasury.