Wilson-Raybould is a descendant of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach peoples, which are part of the Kwakwaka’wakw, also known as the Kwak’wala-speaking peoples. She is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation. Wilson-Raybould carries the Kwak’wala name Puglaas which roughly translates to “woman born to noble people”.
Wilson-Raybould is the daughter of Bill Wilson, a First Nations hereditary chief, politician, and lawyer, and Sandra Wilson, a teacher. On Canadian national television in 1983, Wilson-Raybould’s father informed then-Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau that his two daughters hoped to become lawyers and then Prime Minister someday. Born at Vancouver General Hospital, she was raised in British Columbia, attending Robert Scott Elementary School in Port Hardy, British Columbia, where her mother also taught, and later Comox, British Columbia, graduating from Highland Secondary School.
Wilson-Raybould studied political science and history at the University of Victoria where she was awarded her Bachelor of Arts degree. She then studied for a law degree from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law. She married Dr. Tim Raybould (1966), a First Nations negotiator and consultant and social anthropologist, on November 29, 2008.
Wilson-Raybould began serving as Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada (MOJAG) on November 4, 2015, becoming the first Indigenous person and third woman to hold the office. On November 12, 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave Wilson-Raybould her mandate letter, which asked her to deliver on, among other matters, responding to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on medical assistance in dying, reviewing the government’s litigation strategy, conducting a review of the changes in the criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the previous decade (including looking to increase the use of restorative justice processes and other initiatives to reduce the rate of incarceration amongst indigenous Canadians), creating the process to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis, restoring a modern Court Challenges Program, introducing government legislation to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under Canadian law, and reforming the Supreme Court of Canada nomination process to ensure that it is transparent, inclusive and accountable to Canadians. In December 2016, along with Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, she submitted the National Security Green Paper, “Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016”,a consultation paper aimed at informing further public discussion on issues of national security.
During the first six months in office, she introduced major legislation on medical assistance in dying—one of her key mandate letter commitments. In collaboration with her colleague, Health Minister Jane Philpott, Wilson-Raybould led the effort to pass Bill C-14, which received Royal Assent on June 17, 2016.
Wilson-Raybould also introduced Bill C-16, which amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination, which was another key mandate letter commitment. The legislation also amended the Criminal Code to extend protections against hate propaganda, and it received Royal Assent on June 16, 2017.
The Minister’s mandate letter called for a review of the Government’s litigation strategy to “end appeals or positions inconsistent with the Government’s commitments, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or Canadian values”. As part of that commitment, on January 11, 2019, she issued the Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples. The Directive guides the Government of Canada’s legal approaches, positions and decisions taken in civil litigation involving Aboriginal and treaty rights, and the Crown’s obligation towards Indigenous peoples. In 2017 she published the first-ever Litigation Year in Review with a subsequent edition in 2018.
On January 14, 2019, Trudeau made a cabinet shuffle, moving Wilson-Raybould from her role as the Minister of Justice & Attorney General to become the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The move was seen as a demotion, and initially believed to be related to Wilson-Raybould’s positions on indigenous reconciliation; Don Martin, host of CTV News Channel’s Power Play called it a ‘hit job’ and suggested it could be due to her criticism of the pace of reconciliation under the Trudeau government, while President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip called the decision “disappointing and disturbing”, saying “The removal of these critical and well-respected ministers, during a period of significant conflict and tension, demonstrates Trudeau’s lack of resolve to address Canada’s deplorable relationship with Indigenous peoples.” In a written statement, Wilson-Raybould said she would not talk about the shuffle, but did talk about her work as Justice Minister, about the unique responsibilities of the dual Minister of Justice/Attorney General role in Canadian government, and about the importance of avoiding the appearance of political interference.
She resigned from the Trudeau cabinet on February 12, 2019.