Thursday, 7 March 2019

I'm back - what's up? Thoughts about SNC, JWR and JT

It’s been a long time since I blogged. 
A couple of professional considerations made it necessary to stop publishing my thoughts and foolishness, but those responsibilities have been honoured in once case and completed in another.  So, now I can say what I want (mostly).

The last time I blogged Stephen Harper was the Prime Minister of Canada.  We were just getting ready to fall in love with Justin Trudeau.   So, anything happen while I was gone?

I have a couple of thoughts about our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and our current (Liberal) Federal Government.  I will put a couple of things on the record before I say anything else – I did vote for this government.  I don’t know how I will vote in the next election.  I am not, in any way, an apologist for the Government, nor am I defending the Prime Minister.  I am also, not intentionally, maligning those who aspire to govern.   (We’ll see how that goes).

The current SNC-Lavalin scandal and the relationship between Justin Trudeau, the PMO and the former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould is all that people around me want to talk about – but it seems to me that they are talking about the wrong things.  I am not so sure that desiring and or suggesting that SNC-Lavalin should be subject to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement is all that far-fetched.  It may be wrong headed, but I don’t think it so unethical that it rises to the level of scandal.  It is what I would have expected our last five elected Federal Governments to pursue and certainly that I would expect to be the hopes of a Quebec MP (like our PM).   But here is the part that bothers me:  Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise of “Real Change” and many of us came to believe that this government would be different.  Justin set the bar high and brought in Indigenous MPs and 15 women to the Cabinet; he promised “government by Cabinet”. 
And we believed that things would be different.   
And some things are, but many things are not.   

It is hard to let go of habit, privilege, patriarchal and colonial culture and it feels like the PMO and the Prime Minister have stopped trying for real change.

Some time ago, I have the privilege of working on a national committee that was largely composed of Indigenous leaders.  There were only a couple of settlers around the table and we had no power to influence the way that agendas were set or business was conducted.  It is not the only time that I have been in such a position, but this one gathering was formative for me.   In the course of a meeting, one person gave a presentation and then the meeting moved on.  After a couple of minutes this person realized that there was something else that she wanted to add, but the Chair of the meeting preempted her comment and let her know that we had moved on.  
I thought nothing of it, it was no big deal.   
That night there were 12 of us at dinner together and the woman who had chaired the meeting, paused and asked for our attention.  She then proceeded to offer an apology to the person who had been silenced at the meeting.  The apology was public and came with a gift to acknowledge how seriously she had taken her discourtesy.   She explained that it was the practice her people to make a public and specific apology when a mistake had been made. 

My first thought was “Are you kidding me? – It was nothing… barely a slight; that’s the way meetings go!”  
Fortunately, my mouth remained shut and my brain and heart stayed open to witness a beautiful example of reconciliation, sincere connection and another way of working and being together. 

I don’t know Jody Wilson-Raybould’s particular traditions or indigenous culture, but I do know that it is not an old-boys club culture.  In the meeting that I just referenced, one moment of offense – and a slight one by my standards – was enough to warrant an apology and a gift.  
Can you imagine how repeated requests for the same consideration; repeated ignoring of the Attorney General’s wisdom and decision would become an incredible insult?  I can.  
Gerry Butts probably can't imagine it, he has been clear that it was just business as usual; the Prime Minister has said that he didn’t realize that Minister of Justice Wilson-Raybould was feeling under-pressure.  And that’s the point for me – he should have.  If you invite her to govern with you, you invite all of her: her culture and her gender as well as her wisdom, experience and passion. 

Our Prime Minister invited people into Government who do not belong to the Old Boys Network with the the promise that they would help to change it - but that means the the Cabinet and PMO have to also change the way they go about governing.  You don't invite women to join your cabinet if you are expecting them to act like men; you don't invite indigenous people into government if you just want them to act like colonialists.  

I appreciate that it is difficult and that mistakes are inevitable.  I know that it is the job of the opposition to jump on every mistake as if it is the great sin that disqualifies the Prime Minister and his government from governing, so I don't pay much attention to the silly holier-than-thou foaming at the mouth.
But I do pay attention to how people act when they make a mistake.
I will be watching our Prime Minister in the days, weeks and months to come...  will he learn and affect real change (even if it's not complete)?  Or will he retreat to "business as usual" and deny and obfuscate?   Time will tell and I sincerely hope that whatever we as country decide in the next election, that we won't let go of the progress that has been made (incremental and small as it may seem), simply because our leaders continue to be addicted to Patriarchal Colonial Privilege... it's a heady and destructive drug.

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