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The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould
July 8, 2021
Dear Constituents of Vancouver Granville:
I would like to share some news. I will not be running as a candidate in the next federal election to be the Member of Parliament for our riding of Vancouver Granville.
This was not an easy or quick decision to make. It came about through long reflection on and writing about my own experiences in Ottawa, insights others have shared with me, and a growing realization of the depth of the shifts needed in our political culture.
I have made this decision in order to spend more time with my family or to focus on other challenges and pursuits.
From my seat over the last six years, I have noticed a change in Parliament, a regression. It has become more and more toxic and ineffective while simultaneously marginalizing individuals from certain backgrounds. Federal politics is, in my view, increasingly a disgraceful triumph of harmful partisanship over substantive action. In 2015, I ran to be the MP in our newly created riding of Vancouver Granville to drive change on the critical issues facing our community and all Canadians, including Indigenous reconciliation, climate change, social and racial justice, and building an enduring economy in a rapidly shifting world. Fighting for transformative change on these matters is what I was doing before becoming your MP, when I was the Regional Chief of British Columbia. And this is what I will continue to do in our community and across the country after my time as MP ends.
I am leaving to carry on this work in different venues.
The last sixteen months have been challenging as we have collectively dealt with COVID-19. As is the case in all neighbourhoods and communities, many in Vancouver Granville endured isolation or faced unexpected economic insecurities. Some of us suffered from illness; others have lost loved ones and friends. And while there is light at the end of the tunnel here in Canada, significant challenges persist. As we continue to hold each other up, we must stay vigilant and resilient, including by recognizing that we are not fully protected from COVID-19 until all of humanity has the opportunity to be vaccinated.
Recent weeks have also seen the flurry of horrific reports about the children who lost their lives in Canada’s Indian residential “schools.” I take strength from the reactions to this news by Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I think Canadians are demonstrating that when we speak of our “legacy of colonialism” it is not a reference to something in the past but to a reckoning that is taking place right now—one that requires transformative action today. No excuses. Our society endures and improves when we make an effort to come to terms with our history. We can do this. We are doing this. But we must learn what else needs to be done and continue to take action individually and collectively.
At the same time as we are dealing with the pandemic and reminders of a painful colonial reality, the effects of climate change are bearing down on us. Our country is experiencing the hottest temperatures on record, and whole villages are burning to the ground. If this is not a call to action, I do not know what is.
For all the strengths revealed by the responses of Canadians to the challenges of these times, the weaknesses in our current politics have also been highlighted.
Initially, I thought the pandemic would reinforce the urgent need to make our governing institutions work better, and for a time it did. At the outset, and in the face of a common threat, the political parties worked together for the good of all Canadians. But all too quickly, we saw a return to more common patterns of self-interested partisanship, game-playing, and jockeying for advantage.
And that is the crux of the problem. We’ve been through and continue to go through incredibly challenging times: a pandemic and the first tentative steps down the road to recovery; shattering revelations about our history and the urgent need for true justice and reconciliation; a growing crisis of climate change that is setting villages on fire. If none of this can shake our partisan patterns of behaviour, what can? The fact that we even need to ask the question reveals the depth of change that is needed. And that change is not going to happen from within the system that itself needs to change.
This crisis is not really about the individual people in politics, many of whom are well-intentioned and do good work. Rather, it is in the way we practice democracy in Canada and how we need to reconsider it moving forward. The privileges we give political parties. The out-of-date norms of our first-past-the-post electoral system. The lack of inclusiveness. The power of the prime minister and the centralization of power in the hands of those who are unelected. The erosion of governing principles and conventions to the point where there are limited or no consequences for wrongful acts undertaken for political benefit. The lack of courage to speak the truth—and the failure of bystanders to support those who do.
My granny, Pugladee, always challenged us to “ask yourself everyday—has what you have done today benefited the Indian community?” She was a residential “school” Survivor who grew up to help maintain our Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw system of governance, the Potlatch, in the face of it being outlawed. She was taken from her home to be “civilized,” and she returned knowing she had to fight to preserve all that she valued.
My granny fought for our Potlatch, and now our evolving system of governance in Canada needs to be fought for in the same way.
I have been looking at myself in the mirror, as my granny would have me do. I have been asking myself what I can do next, in whatever small way that might be, to help tackle the problems we face locally and beyond. I know that, at this time, those efforts will not be in Parliament.
With others, I fought for change from outside of federal politics for twenty-five-plus years, and I fought for change within federal politics for the past six years. Both inside and outside of government, I know the fight continues. And others will be there. At this time in my life, though, I realize there is work for me to do outside of federal politics. To mobilize different voices, support and advance them, and build co-operation among peoples, groups, and stakeholders who recognize the need for transformative change to our political culture, and who have the courage to break from the outdated and ineffective norms and patterns that continue to dominate our governance.
Canadians need to lead our leaders.
I think this is what I experienced as your MP, and, in particular, as an Independent. You pushed me to stay true to the values and commitments you elected me to advance, even when the political party I was elected within was abandoning them. You then elected me as the first-ever female Independent MP and sent a clear and strong message that good governance, democratic principles, and integrity matter—more so than partisanship.
Vancouver Granville showed Canada what doing politics differently really looks like. When it became clear that “doing politics differently” required being outside of the party that had these words as its slogan, you actually voted to do politics differently. I hope I did, and I hope I lived up to your expectations.
I will be sharing more details soon about my future plans and work, and how we can do that work together. For me—and for you, too, I believe—it all leads to the same destination: A stronger Canada and a place we can all proudly call home. A continuation of the work required to build the most diverse and welcoming country in the world with the most stable, accountable, and efficient government.
It has been an honour to serve as your Member of Parliament. And it is the absolute truth when I say that the best part of being your MP since 2015 was meeting so many of you, getting to know our community better and better, and being and sharing together—be it at gatherings, on doorsteps, by email or mail, or in meetings in our constituency office (or on Zoom). I have so valued the support this riding has shown me over the years, and the ways in which you continue to inspire me every day. I feel blessed to live in this community, to have shared in your lives, and to have had you share in mine. We have done good work together. I know this will continue in other ways.
So thank you. For everything. Your love, support, kindness, and constructive criticisms. For challenging me, pushing me, and demanding I do better. For supporting me, or not, as we went on a bit of a roller-coaster ride together. For reminding me, constantly, whose voices bear witness to what is really needed, and for sharing the wisdom of what must be done. Your voices, and those of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, continue to lead the way.
My work, our work, goes on. For our community in Vancouver Granville. For Indigenous peoples. For our dream of Canada. I will see you out there, continuing to do what we do for our communities, our peoples, and our collective future.
With deep gratitude,
Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C, M.P.
Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville