Trudeau defends transfer of Canada's first Indigenous justice minister as RCMP-Wet'suwet'en standoff continues

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      Both Justin Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould are defending the former’s decision to transfer the latter out of Canada’s ministry of justice.

      Wilson-Raybould, the Liberal MP for Vancouver Granville and Canada’s first Indigenous person to hold the position of federal minister of justice, was reassigned to the role of minister of veterans affairs.

      "I can think of no world in which I would consider working for our veterans in Canada as a demotion," Wilson-Raybould said responding to journalists in Ottawa this morning (January 14).

      Trudeau initiated the cabinet shuffle as a crisis of Indigenous relations plays out in B.C.’s central interior.

      Beginning on January 5, a standoff has occurred between the RCMP and Indigenous people who for years have stood in the way of a pipeline that TransCanada wants to transport liquefied-natural gas from Dawson Creek to an LNG Canada facility under construction just outside Kitimat.

      The confrontation began when RCMP deployed a significant police presence around the Wet'suwet'en people’s Unist'ot'en Camp and Gidimt'en Access Point. The RCMP action followed shortly after TransCanada subsidiary Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Ltd. obtained an interim injunction that forbids "obstructing, blocking, physically impeding or delaying access" to Coastal Gaslink Pipeline employees and contractors.

      On January 7, the RCMP arrested 14 people at the at the Gidumt'en checkpoint. They were later released without charges. On January 10, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs negotiated with the RCMP to allow limited access past the Gidimt’en Access Point and around the Unist'ot'en Camp.

      The confrontation has seen the RCMP deploy large numbers of officers to the area. They have been photographed carrying large automatic weapons and are backed by large all-terrain vehicles plus air support including police helicopters.

      It’s all led to intense criticism of the Trudeau government’s reconciliation efforts. Large protests have occurred in Ottawa and in cities and towns across Canada.

      In May 2016, anti-pipeline activists occupied the office of Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Liberal MP for Vancouver Granville and Canada's first Indigenous person to hold the position of justice minister.
      Carlito Pablo

      Today (January 14) Trudeau has found himself defending his decision to reassign Wilson-Raybould from the position of Justice Minister to that of veterans affairs as many have called the move a demotion and questioned its timing.

      “I could caution anyone who thinks that serving our veterans and making sure they get the care to which they are so justly entitled from any Canadian government is anything other than a deep and awesome responsibility,” Trudeau said in response to reporters’ questions.

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