The federal cabinet minister responsible for Crown-Indigenous relations apologized publicly to an Indigenous MP today after suggesting Jody Wilson-Raybould's concern over residential schools and Indigenous rights was really a ploy to secure a generous MP pension.
"Earlier I offered my apologies directly to the MP for Vancouver-Granville. I let interpersonal dynamics get the better of me and sent an insensitive and inappropriate comment, which I deeply regret and shouldn't have done," Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said in a social media post.
Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Independent MP for Vancouver Granville, famously resigned from the Liberal cabinet and was later removed from the party by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Earlier today, Wilson-Raybould took to Twitter to call out Trudeau over what she called his "selfish jockeying for an election" and to demand he deliver on his 2018 promise to deliver transformative Indigenous rights legislation.
Bennett apologized after Wilson-Raybould posted an image of a private message she received from Bennett citing her tweet. The message consisted of a single word: "Pension?"
Wilson-Raybould described the message as "racist & misogynist." She said it reflects the "notion that Indigenous peoples are lazy" and suggests that "a strong Indigenous woman is a bad" Indigenous woman.
According to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, MPs have to contribute to the plan for at least six years before they can claim a pension.
Indigenous Services Marc Miller said Bennett's message was "unacceptable" and attributed the exchange to "interpersonal issues" between the former colleagues.
WATCH: Indigenous Services Marc Miller discusses the exchange between Carolyn Bennett and Jody Wilson-Raybould on CBC's Power & Politics
Wilson-Raybould was one of 142 MPs elected for the first time on October 19, 2015. For those MPs, defeat in an election taking place before October 19, 2021 would deprive them of the pension.
At a minimum, they could lose a retirement allowance of just over $32,000 per year starting at age 65. This amount is indexed and becomes more generous based on the number of additional years of service.
The annual base salary for MPs is $185,800. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries receive more generous salaries and allowances.
According to a count by Radio-Canada, more than half of the Liberal caucus — 92 MPs, including 23 ministers — could lose access to the pension in an early election.