Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Jati Sidhu apologized in the House of Commons last Thursday, just hours after he told The Abbotsford News that former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Rayboluld wasn’t “a team player” and that her father may be “pulling the strings.”
In the interview with The News, Sidhu had dismissed Wilson-Raybould’s explosive testimony on Feb. 27 as “sour grapes,” and said her discomfort with what she described as political interference in a legal decision was the result of a lack of experience.
Sidhu’s comments drew criticism from political opponents and observers from across the country, with both NDP and Conservative MPs calling them “misogynistic.” Less than three hours after speaking to The News, Sidhu apologized for his comments as Question Period drew to a close.
“I apologize without reservation to the Member of Vancouver Granville for my inappropriate comments,” he told the House of Commons. “Both inside and outside of the House, it is important to treat everyone with respect.”
Wilson-Raybould had testified for more than four hours on Feb. 27 at the parliamentary justice committee. She said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff had repeatedly pressured her to allow a major Quebec engineering company to avoid criminal prosecution for alleged bribes distributed in Libya. She also said that Trudeau and his staff repeatedly insinuated that not allowing SNC-Lavalin to escape criminal prosecution could have negative political consequences for the Liberals.
The testimony was seen as a major blow to the Liberals, and prompted Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to call for Trudeau’s resignation. Wilson-Raybould, meanwhile, was hailed as a “truth teller” for testifying.
But Sidhu, the first-term Liberal MP representing the sprawling Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding, said he didn’t find Wilson-Raybould’s words to be alarming. Sidhu said the discussions about prosecuting SNC-Lavalin were “normal.”
“It’s a discussion: they do it every day, every time,” he said.
Sidhu repeatedly said that if Wilson-Raybould was unhappy, she should have resigned immediately. He chalked up her discomfort to “a lack of experience,” and said she’s not “a team player.”
“The way she’s acting, I think she couldn’t handle the stress,” he said. “I think there’s somebody else behind—maybe her father—pulling the strings.” Wilson-Raybould’s father is Bill Wilson, a hereditary chief who took a prominent role in constitutional talks with Pierre Trudeau in the 1980s.
Asked why people should believe that he is not just repeating the Liberal Party line on the matter, Sidhu said, “The Prime Minister is not telling his caucus what to say or what to do.”
Like Sidhu, Wilson-Raybould is serving her first term in Parliament. Before becoming an MP, she was a prosecutor in Vancouver and a regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
She said last Wednesday that her experience as a prosecutor and as a First Nations leader who had seen the government break the law in the past had influenced her decisions as attorney general.
“I came to it with a deeply-ingrained commitment to the rule of law and the importance of acting independently of partisan, political and narrow interests in all matters,” she said. “I will conclude by saying this: I was taught to always be careful what you say because you cannot take it back.”
Just last week, the Prime Minister apologized for not immediately condemning personal attacks on his former attorney general by unnamed sources.
Brad Vis, the Conservative candidate in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, called on Sidhu to issue an apology. In a tweet, he said Sidhu “is a misogynist who doesn’t respect the rule of law.”
In a subsequent email, Vis wrote “I am absolutely appalled at MP Sidhu for his dismissive and misogynistic remarks regarding the former attorney general.
“Unfortunately, Jati seems incapable of understanding that issues like our respect for the rule of law must always transcend political partisanship.
“To suggest it’s the former attorney general’s father pulling her strings, and that she can’t handle stress is not just inappropriate, it’s sexist, and beneath the office which MP Sidhu holds.”