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International Women’s Day: “Institutions have to be designed from the ground up to ensure equal treatment”

Canadian Justice Minister speaks at the Hertie School on her personal experience working for inclusion.

Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould
Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould
Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould in discussion with Hertie School Professor Başak Çalı
Başak Çalı, Hertie School Professor of International Law
Başak Çalı, Hertie School Professor of International Law
The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Canadian Ambassador to Germany and Special Envoy to the European Union and Europe
The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Canadian Ambassador to Germany and Special Envoy to the European Union and Europe
Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould in discussion with Hertie School students
Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould in discussion with Hertie School students
Helmut K. Anheier, Hertie School President and Professor of Sociology
Helmut K. Anheier, Hertie School President and Professor of Sociology

“As we find ourselves at a societal turning point, we can and must do more to create hopeful societies for women,” Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould told a packed auditorium on International Women’s Day at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Speaking about her experiences working for inclusion and diversity in Canada, she said: “It’s not enough to demand fair treatment, institutions have to be designed from the ground up to ensure equal treatment.”

Wilson-Raybould focused on her own personal story as a lawyer, advocate, and leader among British Columbia’s First Nations. A member of the We Wai Kai Nation and descendent of  Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach, which are part of the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples, Wilson-Raybould said she grew up in a culture where women were expected to take a guiding role in the community. “I know glass ceilings exist, but I never thought that way,” she said. “My grandmother taught me to believe in myself.  She would say:  if you are passionate and believe in something, work hard and have a plan, you can achieve anything.”

“I know glass ceilings exist, but I never thought that way. My grandmother taught me to believe in myself. She would say: if you are passionate and believe in something, work hard and have a plan, you can achieve anything. - Jody Wilson-Raybould (@Puglaas)”

It was her grandmother who inspired her to take on leadership roles in her community, she said.  In particular, as former Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations, Wilson-Raybould fought for the self-determination of Canada’s indigenous peoples, who faced harsh and discriminatory laws banning them from participating in their traditional cultures into the latter half of the 20th century.  First Nations peoples in Canada were only granted the right to vote in 1960, without losing their treaty rights and Indian status.

In a discussion with Hertie School Professor of International Law Başak Çalı following her keynote, Wilson-Raybould said that against the backdrop of this history, it was still incredible to her that, as the top lawyer in the Ministry of Justice, she was now able to help shape institutions in ways that would prevent discrimination in the future.

Deeply aware of the high expectations the indigenous community has for her as Justice Minister, she said the job “comes with the opportunity to do incredibly amazing things.” One of her biggest challenges is listening to the diversity of opinions and ideas on how to ensure fair and equal treatment for all under the law – and then “finding a balanced approach to achieve this.”

Wilson-Raybould brought her extensive experience in law, public service, and First Nations governance to the Canadian Cabinet. She was sworn-in as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on November 4, 2015. She is an elected member of parliament and represents the federal riding of Vancouver-Granville in British Columbia.