Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns from cabinet

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

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

What will her departure mean for the Liberal party and for Justin Trudeau?

The Globe and Mail reported that people in Trudeau's office tried to pressure Wilson-Raybould a year ago to help construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a corruption trial when she was justice minister.

So with the government's legitimacy swaying in the balance, the whole country is waiting for Wilson-Raybould to finally tell her side of the story.

Trudeau was elected four years ago with a progressive platform that included a promise to build a new nation-to-nation relationship between the government and Indigenous peoples.

Wilson-Raybould had been Canada's first Indigenous justice minister and the face of Trudeau's commitment to make reconciliation his top priority.

"Ms. Wilson-Raybould's appointment as minister of justice and attorney general was celebrated by many First Nations people as a tremendous accomplishment and testament to her expertise, experience and intellect", Bellegarde said in a statement.

And said she sees Wilson-Raybould's treatment as part of a worrying trend between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indigenous women.

Because if anyone, particularly the attorney general, felt that we were not doing our job fully, responsibly and according to all the rules, as a government, it was her responsibility to come forward to me this past fall and highlight that directly to me.

"I am aware that many Canadians wish for me to speak on matters that have been in the media over the last week". It does say she will continue to serve as MP for the riding of Vancouver-Granville. For the time being at least, she remains a member of the Liberal caucus.

The PM's office also urged Wilson-Raybould to redirect the matter out of the courts and into the so-called "remediation agreement" which would be an alternative to a criminal trial.

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But it would have saved us all a lot of trouble if, having found herself at odds with the head of government over this important matter of public policy, she had taken the logical step and resigned from cabinet immediately.

One of Trudeau's spokespeople says Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will take over the veterans-affairs portfolio temporarily. "In our system of governance, her presence in cabinet should speak for itself".

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said he was "saddened" to learn about the resignation. "Clearly, there is something more than he has been forthcoming with". He has denied directing Wilson-Raybold to arrange such a deal. On Monday, he said in Vancouver that he'd told Wilson-Raybould that any decision on the subject was hers alone.

SNC-Lavalin has declined to comment on any of the reports.

Federal byelections will be held on February 25 in three vacant ridings - Burnaby South, where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is hoping to win a seat in the House of Commons, the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe and Montreal's Outremont. The committee is scheduled to consider the motion on Wednesday.

Liberals, who hold the majority on the committee, appear to be open to conducting an investigation. And that's a huge blow for Trudeau and the PMO, if indeed they were covering up the affair.

The grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak also lamented the political loss.

"I'm absolutely pissed", said Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

He said he's "concerned about the many unanswered questions" surrounding Wilson-Raybould's resignation and added that this is "echoed by many First Nations across the country".

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