Gerald Butts’ text conversation with JWR released
Portions of text messages between former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and the PM’s ex-principal secretary Gerald Butts show tension over her impending January 14 shuffle out of the Justice portfolio, but sheds little new information on allegations she was removed due to disagreements over SNC-Lavalin.
Butts submitted the texts to the Justice Committee last week and this afternoon it released a redacted copy, along with notes Butts took during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s January 7, 2019 call with Wilson-Raybould about shuffling her from Justice to Veterans Affairs.
The texts encompass a number of exchanges between the former principal secretary and Wilson-Raybould – organizing their December 5, 2018 dinner at the Chateau Laurier and messages leading up to the January 14 cabinet shuffle – and indicate a disagreement over the public characterization of her looming removal as Justice minister.
Butts claims that the reason for the shuffle was because of then Treasury Board president Scott Brison’s resignation.
Warren Kinsella, pundit and former political operative for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien says notes Butts took during the January 7 call “confirms all of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s allegations.” Kinsella also claims the notes suggest that the PMO was taping Wilson-Raybould.
However either of Kinsella’s contentions are unclear when Butts’ texts and notes are considered in their totality, and in context with other unfolding events. While Butts’ notes indicate that Wilson-Raybould believes Trudeau is removing her as justice minister/attorney general (what Butts shorthands MOJAG), “for other reasons”, it remains ambiguous as to what those reasons are.
According to Butts’ rendering of the call, Trudeau purportedly says the shuffle is because of Brison’s departure, to which Wilson-Raybould replies, “I don’t agree.”
“That’s not how we change people’s lives,” she adds.
On January 11, 2019, as then-attorney general – the country’s first indigenous person to occupy the role – Wilson-Raybould would announce sweeping reforms to civil litigation between the Crown and Indigenous groups, to little media fanfare that she even predicts in a previous text to Butts.
Already aware that she is out as attorney general – to be announced by the PMO the following Monday – Wilson-Raybould texts Butts on January 8, three days before her Indigenous Justice revamp is made official.
“Jessica (Prince, Wilson-Raybould’s chief-of-staff) told me what you said from last night,” she texts. “Timing of ‘pushing’ me out (which will be the perception – whether true or not) is terrible – it will be confounding and perplexing to people.”
“This is not about me – believe me when I say this,” Wilson-Raybould insists. “But this is about an approach to indigenous peoples.”
Her message to Butts comes a day after RCMP arrest 14 protesters in Northern B.C. over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project – among those taken away in handcuffs are members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
Though Wilson-Raybould does not specifically reference the protest or arrests, the timing of her texted concerns is curious: “This situation is only going to deepen and I am very worried about it. I am getting texts/emails from indig (sic) leaders and BC etc. Just felt I had to text.”
Butts replies: “Nobody is ‘pushing you out.’ In fact, the PM has taken the extraordinary (in my experience unique) step of offering an alternative Cabinet post to you because you said you were unable to take on Indigenous Services.”
During Butts’ testimony at Justice committee on March 6, he recounted Wilson-Raybould’s refusal to take the helm of the Indigenous Services minister.
“She said she had spent her life opposed to the Indian Act and couldn’t be in charge of the programs administered under its authority,” Butts told the committee.
Butts also testified that to his knowledge, nobody from the Prime Minister’s Office put political pressure on Wilson-Raybould, what she alleges was to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal trial for bribery and corruption charges.
She has alleged that such a coordinated effort was afoot for four months and involved key figures in the PMO including Butts, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.
Wilson-Raybould’s testimony at Justice committee also highlighted the December 5 dinner with Butts where she discussed “SNC and the barrage of people hounding me and my staff.”
“Towards the end of the meeting I raised how I needed everyone to stop talking to me about SNC as I had made up my mind and the engagements were inappropriate,” she told the committee on February 27, two weeks after she resigned from cabinet altogether over the affair.
“Gerry then took over the conversation and said how we need a solution on the SNC stuff – he said I needed to find a solution,” said Wilson-Raybould.
Given Wilson-Raybould testified this dinner meeting at the Chateau Laurier was primarily to discuss alleged political pressure she faced over SNC, Butts’ and Wilson-Raybould’s text exchange shortly after the dinner and before midnight on December 5 – albeit slightly redacted – make no mention of SNC-Lavalin.
Butts: “Nice to see you. [redacted]”
Wilson-Raybould: “Nice to see you as well. Thx for convo. Please say alo to PM. Heard him speaking my language in his speech. Gilakasla 🙂 [redacted] Good luck in Montreal – we stick to our guns/plan we will be good.”
A small plane flying through southern Alberta crashed killing the three passengers on board. According to the Transportation Safety Board, the pilot was operating the aircraft without licence, his student pilot permit having expired.
The board also notes that no records at Transport Canada indicate that the pilot was licenced to fly passengers at night.
The plane was on its way to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, from Medicine Hat, Alberta, the June 1 evening.
The passengers had been at a party to celebrate an upcoming wedding and were making their way back to Saskatchewan, according to a relative of one of the deceased.
The plane was found east of Medicine Hat by about 30 kilometres after a search was made following an overdue report.
New details of the collision were posted in an occurrence report. The passengers were pronounced dead at the scene along with the pilot.
According to Nancy Filteau, her son Justin Filteau and two family friends were among the deceased.
The plane was registered to J. Wilk Landscaping Ltd. in Moose Jaw, according to the Associated Press.
I watched The Irishman last night, all three and a half hours of it. I’ve been a long-time fan of Scorsese’s distinct directing style, a man who is often imitated but never duplicated. Goodfellas was the first movie I ever saw of Scorsese’s and, in fact, the first “film” I ever saw period. The style, the dialogue, the shots, I was brought into a different universe within the opening scene.
The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran, Russ Bufalino and Jimmy Hoffa. It’s an interpretation of who killed Hoffa back in 1975. The expounding is pulled largely from the book I Heard You Paint Houses, a nonfiction narrative published in 2004. It was written by Charles Brandt, Sheeran’s former attorney.
Scorsese is best known as a master director of gangster films, focusing primarily on east coast Italian and Irish-American crime organizations. His start began in the ‘70s with films like Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. I would argue that he reached his prime in the ‘90s with films such as Goodfellas and Casino. The early aughts had award-winning films as well, Gangs of New York and The Departed. All of the films above have been met with criticism for their gratuitous violence and machismo admiration.
The films all cover different epochs and legends of America’s mafia but the one thing they all have in common—their undeniable glorification of the life. I’m no critic of such romanticism, art is limitless, but that is what made The Irishman stand out and why it will be seen as his outlier gangster classic.
It still has many of the iconic Scorsese signatures—a zooming featherweight camera, a deadly soundtrack, guns and his favourite leading men as the ensemble.
The difference with The Irishman is that unlike Ray Liotta’s character Henry Hill in Goodfellas or Robert Deniro’s Sam “Ace” Rothstein in Casino, one feels no empathy for the leading characters.
The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran (Deniro) Russ Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and each are presented as apathetic. They have no charisma or charm, perhaps Hoffa at times but he is still shows no moral calibre.
In past movies, Scorsese presents even his hitman thugs as being good fathers or loving husbands in an attempt to show the duality of man and have the viewer somewhat on their side. Sheeran is the centrepiece of the cast and he is routinely shown to be both a negligent father and husband.
The movie is a whopping three and a half hours and one could make the case that it doesn’t need to be but I believe it is drawn out to show the debilitation of its characters. These men value life so little that to watch them die of old age is almost more unsettling than the murders they committed in their younger years.
I think ultimately that is the point of the film; mobsters are supposed to die young, preferably in a blaze of bullets like Sonny Corleone in The Godfather II. The idea of withering away in prison on a life sentence, or planning out your funeral as a geriatric from an old age home is definitely outside the genre’s motifs.
Scorsese, who is 77, is no doubt contemplating his own mortality and the film is certainly evident of that. The veneer has been removed. The deaths in The Irishman, of which there are plenty are done in a way that is anti-climatic, swift and gritty.
The Scorsese of some years ago would have likely portrayed those same scenes with a perfect application of slow-motion camera work, a classic crooning song and the blood would flow in an artful stream. That isn’t the case at all with The Irishman. The men and their actions are presented the way the law and society, in general, would see them, brutish and cold.
One can’t help but wonder if Scorsese feels a certain amount of guilt for having made so many films that glorify the ugly deeds of these sociopathic “goodfellas.” Perhaps, for a man who is ensconced in his own Catholicism, it was time for some directorial penance: “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned, I have made a litany of award-winning box-office smash hits that romanticized the lives of heathens, I promise this next film will make it all right.”
In any case, The Irishman is a great film, it’s no Goodfellas but it doesn’t need to be. What we see in The Irishman is a seasoned director in the tail-end of his career telling a final truth often ignored within a genre that he perfected.
President Trump was caught mocking press coverage of his sudden decision to cancel a press conference in London, announced after a video of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and UK prime minister Boris Johnson making banter about Trump’s conference.
Trump’s hot mic, observed by numerous different outlets in London, overheard Trump bragging about his snarky comments to Trudeau, calling the leader “two-faced.”
“Oh. And then you know what they’ll say? said Trump in a private conversation, “‘He didn’t do a press conference! He didn’t do a press conference!’”
“That was funny when I said that guy was two-faced,” Trump finally stated.
Trump’s jab at Trudeau came after the video of Trudeau making fun of Trump for his surprise press conference.
Daniel Koren is the director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, an organization that empowers student leaders to fight against anti-Israel and antisemitic discrimination on campus.
In an opinion piece titled “Free Speech, but not for Palestine” published in the Toronto Sun on Nov. 28, two anti-Israel activists (one of whom is known for his anti-Israel activism at York University) suggest there is nothing wrong with calling for an intifada on campus.
As the director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, which empowers student leaders to fight against anti-Israel and antisemitic discrimination on campus, I strongly disagree.
In their op-ed, Hammam Farah, a York alumnus and founder of the university’s Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) club, and Mona Dennaoui, a former member of SAIA, suggest they were bullied by members of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) and other Jewish counter-protestors at the now infamous York rally on Nov. 20.
This, despite the fact that, according to most accounts, Jewish protestors were outnumbered by anti-Israel demonstrators by at least six to one.
Astonishingly, referring to members of the JDL (known for their hawkish position on the Arab-Israeli conflict) as “snowflakes” isn’t the most ludicrous comment in Farrah and Dennaoui’s op-ed.
No, what’s most absurd is that they suggest there is no free speech for Palestine at a campus known for its hostility towards Jews and pro-Israel students, a campus notorious for a vulgar and violent mural that Jews have for years demanded be removed, a campus where even uttering the words “Israel” or “Zionism” can result in harassment and discrimination.
Farrah and Dennaoui are right about at least one thing, though: the importance of freedom of speech on Canadian college and university campuses. What they fail to articulate is that chanting “Viva, viva intifada!” is not free speech. In my view, it’s hate speech.
But please, don’t take my word for it.
Take the word of Adele Banita-Bennett, whose 22-year-old husband Aharon was stabbed to death in the name of intifada as Adele, their two-year-old daughter, and infant baby watched in horror.
Or, to illustrate why the Palestinian Roots mural promotes violence against Jews, take the word of Yosefa or Maya Levlovich, who were in the car with their father Alexander when Palestinians hurled rocks at their car, forcing it to crash. Alexander, now known as the first victim of the “Stabbing Intifada” of 2015-16, died in hospital the next day.
Or take the word of any of the relatives of the victims of the October, 2015 Jerusalem bus attack, where three Israelis were killed and 16 others were wounded in the name of intifada.
I can go on and on. This is the real face of intifada, and not just to the Jewish- and Arab-Israelis who have been mercilessly attacked in cold blood, but to anyone who has been paying attention.
When a small number of Jews are subject to chants of “Viva, Viva Intifada!” from a much larger group, that’s not just some innocuous saying to us. It’s a call for a violent uprising of knife stabbings, car rammings, and suicide attacks, not “peaceful resistance,” as many anti-Israel activists have suggested. It’s a horrific promotion of murder and genocide.
Palestinians, like all people, deserve the right to protest and freedom of speech. Palestinians, like all people, should not be held collectively responsible when their leaders promote bloodshed by calling for an intifada.
But to imply that this term can mean anything else but violence and murder is to assume it is subject to interpretation when it is not. These examples are indisputable facts concerning hundreds of innocent Israelis, Jewish and Muslim alike, murdered in the name of intifada.
It is the height of hypocrisy that Hammam Farah, who has personally attempted to silence oh so many Jewish- and Israeli-Canadians, claims to be interested in preserving freedom of speech. If he were, then that freedom would have to be awarded to all people, even those he disagrees with.
Following the rally at York, some of the IDF soldiers who spoke said it was unfortunate not a single anti-Israel protestor would give them the chance to start a dialogue that could lead to interfaith building. Instead, they were just trying to shut them down. As the founder of SAIA York, who organized the rally, this is Hammam Farah’s legacy.
Sadly, if anyone is guilty of denying freedom of speech and expression, it is the anti-Israel activists at York, U of T, McGill and other campuses around the world where Jews are being told what they can and cannot do or say. Or am I just being a snowflake?