Review: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Book Launch Sparks Optimism for Indigenous Rights

A thunderous round of applause marked the end of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book launch at Southminster United Church on Friday. 

The release of her book, From Where I Stand, comes in the thick of federal election campaigning, in which she is running as an Independent. The book consists of a compilation of speeches she gave over a ten-year period about reconciliation and Indigenous rights. 

“Indigenous issues have to be removed from partisan politics,” Wilson-Raybould said, bringing audience members to their feet with applause. “We are never going to solve the major issues of our time as a country, unless we do as much as we can to remove our partisan hats and think beyond party lines.” 

Wilson-Raybould spent roughly an hour addressing the full Ottawa church from a stage she shared with Maclean’s journalist, Paul Wells. From the chair to her left, Wells offered her prompts and asked questions about her book, reconciliation, and Indigenous rights within the Canadian sphere. The audience was attentive and engaged, offering her claps and cheers as she spoke. 

The former Minister of Justice and Regional Chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations spoke at length about the legal frameworks restricting Indigenous nations in Canada, namely the Indian Act. She argued that Canada must move beyond these problematic structures and start recognizing the rights Indigenous nations have to their lands and self-governance. According to Wilson-Raybould, this is a task all levels of government must own, from federal to municipal. 

The road to reconciliation won’t be easy. As the former Minister of Justice, Wilson-Raybould knows better than anyone that rebuilding the legal framework of our society is a daunting task—for both settler-Canadians and Indigenous nations. However, she argued, it is absolutely necessary. 

“Just simply because something is difficult it doesn’t mean that you don’t do it,” she said firmly. 

Despite all the pushback and colonial impositions Wilson-Raybould has witnessed, she remains optimistic. She has watched Indigenous nations achieve self-governance, gain control of their communities, and take charge of their lives. She has been a witness to their success and knows what is possible. However, there are still too few success stories, and Indigenous nations still have to “prove their rights” when it comes to land claims and a plethora of other issues. 

“Indigenous communities are finding their way out and deconstructing their colonial legacy,” she said. “We need to speed up that process.”

In the crowd, support for Wilson-Raybould was obvious. Louise Glegg, an attendee at the event, is a firm believer in the importance of reconciliation. She, too, feels there is much more work that needs to be done.

“I think there are many wrongs that need to be corrected,” she said, “And when they are corrected, everyone will benefit—First Nations people and all other Canadians. It’s really important that we do this.” 

Another supporter, Marie Palmer, agreed on the importance of reconciliation. Palmer, while cautiously optimistic, thinks it will take “at least a decade” to reach a place of true reconciliation. She explained that, “a number of things” need more work, but what has been done is a good start. 

The event was held as a part of the annual Writer’s Festival in Ottawa. This year, the event was proud to announce that 88% of the speakers will be women.