They test my resolve immediately. So be it.
The recent Cabinet shuffle saw Jody Wilson-Raybould moved from Justice to Veterans Affairs with the usual blather from those involved, summed up thusly.
What, don’t you think veterans matter?
Thanks for asking. I do think veterans matter, and that their fair treatment by the Government of Canada — even, perhaps, the generous treatment of veterans wounded in body or in spirit — ought to be a priority. But let’s look at it in political and power terms.
In our federal government there are, I believe, four portfolios generally acknowledged as senior: Finance, National Defence, Foreign Affairs, and Justice.
Departments in the second tier include Health, Public Services and Procurement, Transport (maybe) and, these days, International Trade, and Environment and Climate Change.
Examples in the tier(s) below that include Agriculture and Agri-Food, Natural Resources, Canadian Heritage, Democratic Institutions, Status of Women, and, yes, Veterans Affairs.
We could debate the exact rankings, but the rankings exist: not everyone at the table is equal. Indeed, when Jody Wilson-Raybould was appointed as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, much was made of this being the most-senior appointment ever held by an Indigenous person in Canada. Of it being an appointment that signalled a historic change in the relationship between the Government of Canada and Indigenous people. No one suggested that Hunter Tootoo’s concurrent appointment — as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard — compared in prestige or carried the same import.
Yet, somehow, when Wilson-Raybould is moved to Veterans Affairs, both the Prime Minister and the Minister herself try to sell the narrative that the move is not a demotion.
I understand that answering yammering questions from the press would be difficult. I think that human resources decisions — of which this is one — and the basis for them ought to be private, even in public life. But I also think that there’s no point in denying the nose on your face. It’s a move to a lesser portfolio.
They owed us a response that did not strain credulity by denying that bare fact. They owed her an approach that did not strain their working relationship. If they had wanted to put the best face on it, nose and all, they might have done something like this . . .
After completing her mandate early
in the demanding and prestigious portfolio
of Justice and Attorney General,
Jody Wilson-Raybould has agreed to take on
an equally demanding but less prestigious portfolio
that has been neglected by other governments for far too long.
This shows our commitment to Canadian veterans,
including Indigenous veterans, who bear additional burdens.
That they didn’t do so — that they responded so clumsily — suggests that they think they can get away with telling us anything. And that they didn’t care enough to spare the Minister any humiliation.