Written for Daily Hive by Mo Amir, host and producer of the podcast This is VANCOLOUR, based in Vancouver.
“I speak the truth,” says the Member of Parliament for Vancouver-Granville, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first independent woman to have been elected in Canadian parliamentary history.
Truth and lies are distinguishable. Unlike lies, however, truth is a complicated concept.
In practice, our culture — be it in a newsroom or a political communications office — accepts that there are gradients of truth. Objective truth, as it were, is a spectrum that encompasses all known and unknown facts. One person’s statement of truth, intentionally or otherwise, includes some facts while excluding other facts, to which that person may or may not even be privy.
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Within this spectrum of objective truth, there is also the personalization of truth be it “my truth,” “your truth,” or “their truth.” While the phrasing may be relatively new in the cultural zeitgeist, the overlap has long-existed between the truth and personalized truth.
“I don’t think one person can determine my longevity in politics.”
— Mo Amir ॐ This is VANCOLOUR (@vancolour) January 27, 2020
“The two are not incompatible,” insists Wilson-Raybould, invoking her Indigenous ancestry where principles, beliefs, and ways of being are passed on from generation to generation in an oral tradition.
As the first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Wilson-Raybould found herself front and centre of one of the biggest Canadian news stories last year. Within the spin-rooms of political parties, the op-ed pages of newspapers, and of course, the rage of social media commentary, the “he said, she said” nature of the SNC-Lavalin affair soon became a Rorschach test of allegiances, principles, and the nature of truth.
The former Attorney General’s Indigenous ancestry adds context to her role in the SNC-Lavalin affair and provides deeper insight into her decision-making.
“When I stood up in the House of Commons and said I want to speak my truth that, for me, of course imparts facts and what happened, but in that realm with the backdrop of who I am and where I come from,” explains Jody Wilson-Raybould, a descendant of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-kwil-Tach peoples and a member of the We Wai Kai Nation.
Many of her critics weaponized the phrasing — “my truth” — to suggest that truth could not be personalized since it is objective fact. This common response went something along the lines of ‘There’s no such thing as her truth, there’s only the truth.’
“I come from an oral culture,” maintains Wilson-Raybould, whose truth would make her The Canadian Press’ Newsmaker of the Year. “It was in that context that I said I wanted to speak my truth… This is who I am and who I always will be.”
On the surface, it is a conceptual quandary: How can objective truth accommodate personalization?
But it should not be difficult to understand. Speaking your truth is about context: The objective facts are the same but amplified by the context of personal lived experience. Whether it is your cultural background, sexual orientation or gender identity, privilege, age, professional experience, life experience, or a myriad of other factors, there are layers of identity that inform each individual’s perspective.
Different perspectives are commonly accepted when contrasting cultural practices. For example, eye contact has many interpretations around the world, none less objectively true than another. Aside from communicating these different perspectives to each other, there is no other possible way to understand each other.
By framing truth this way, Jody Wilson-Raybould does not deny anyone else of their truth nor does she dismiss objective facts. Rather, she embraces objective facts and the perspectives of others with a keenly sensitive empathy, which is, perhaps, something that should be expected from all elected officials.
Have a listen to the full podcast with MP Jody Wilson-Raybould: