On Luck, Justice and Firsts. #YouAreEmpowering

AG at Allard 03-05-16

Sometimes amazing opportunities drop in your lap. You might even call it luck. And other times, amazing opportunities come your way because you’ve worked hard your whole life, powered by a vision and passion and sought out the best people to work with and the best environment to realize your vision and passion.

The first happened to me serendipitously this Saturday. I showed up at 10 am for the CoRe Writers’ Group at the UBC Alumni Centre, where we planned to find a quiet spot to write for two hours. Those plans were immediately jettisoned when we learned about a gathering upstairs, to hear the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, share her plans and priorities with Allard Law.

What luck!

Indeed, what luck to hear her speak, openly, powerfully and inspiring. What luck to catch a brief moment of her time after her private reception with a group of students. What luck for her to step into Canada’s most important lawyer!

Scratch that last one. That one is not due to luck.

This is that “other time” when amazing opportunities come your way. The Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General Wilson-Raybould is where she is today due to her own hard work, and hard choices, seizing an opportunity to run when her vision and passion was tested (in a watershed conversation with Stephen Harper). And to the hard line of PM Trudeau that his cabinet would be the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history.

Wilson-Raybould is in the land of Firsts.

First and foremost, she is a First Nations leader and formerly the British Columbia regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). “Puglaas” is Wilson-Raybould’s We Wai Kai name, which means “woman born to noble people.” It is also her twitter handle.

She is THE First-ever indigenous Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada. That means she is also THE First indigenous woman to hold the office of Canada’s top prosecutor.

She is one of only two indigenous cabinet members, another First for Canada. (Inuk MP Hunter Tootoo, a former speaker of Nunavut’s legislative assembly, is Minster of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coastguard.)

One of 15 women cabinet ministers, a First ever gender-balanced federal cabinet.

Member of the First group of cabinet ministers tasked with transparent accountability to Canadians. 

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2016, and the Pledge for Parity, it is so important to recognize those Firsts. The ones who make it possible for others.  Who lift others as they climb. Who look different, so others see themselves represented, and still others experience the value in diversity.

Among the many things that make Jody Wilson-Rabould different from her predecessors is her message of reconciliation.

Reconciliation for indigenous peoples in Canada, the disproportionately high rates of incarceration for indigenous women (41% of female inmates) and men (25% of male inmates), as well as for the families of the murdered and missing First Nations women.

And reconciliation within the processes of the court system, especially the criminal justice system. Her message on Saturday at UBC was the strongest I’ve heard on the potential for a clear role for Restorative Justice.

Wilson-Raybould’s track record with consensus-building gives hope for her success here, as well as within parliament as a whole working toward consensus instead of pugnacious partisanship. And seeking consensus driven approaches with other federal cabinet ministers to find the “best” answer on issues such as assisted dying.

“We like to believe every voice counts; not just the voices of fear.”

Listening to Wilson-Raybould, I was overwhelmed with hope. Hope for reconciliation. Hope for civility. Hope for integrity.

I also felt proud. Proud to be a lawyer. Proud to witness what to me is the best in being a lawyer – shaping the way peoples are in community. With each other.

She’s definitely a First in my books.

 This is my Canada on IWD2016. #YouAreEmpowering