Reaction to new Aboriginal Affairs Minister

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Idle No More AFN Aboriginal Affairs

Assembly of First NationsTHUNDER BAY – Politics – Reaction to the appointment of Bernard Valcourt to Aboriginal Affairs Minister from First Nations groups continues. There are a variety of views being expressed. The Assembly of First Nations appears fairly willing to work with the new Minister. The Manitoba Chiefs are stating that they want the new Minister to start listening more.

Reaction from Aboriginal Groups 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo issued the following statement today on the Prime Minister’s announcement of Bernard Valcourt, Member of Parliament for Madawaska-Restigouche (New Brunswick), as the new Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada: 

“This cabinet change comes at a unique time for First Nations and Canada, a true moment of reckoning where we have a commitment from the highest levels of the Government of Canada to achieve real progress and transformative change for First Nations citizens. 

“We see intensifying demand and opportunity to achieve justice, fairness, and political, social and economic development for First Nations. Our work continues on the basis of nation-to-nation relationships to implement our rights and responsibilities, empower and enable our governments and support them through stable, predictable and fair funding mechanisms. First Nations will continue to advocate for the implementation of Treaties, all living agreements, commitments and promise, including those made at the Crown-First Nations Gathering and by the Prime Minister on January 11th, 2013. 

“We hope that Minister Valcourt will work with the First Nation leadership directly to advance priority areas to achieve  transformative change for our peoples. I look forward to meeting with the Minister as soon as possible to discuss immediate next steps in facilitating this dialogue, and together with the leadership,  driving forward the work of building stronger First Nations and a stronger Canada. 

“I also wish to acknowledge the former Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the Honourable John Duncan, and thank him for his hard work and dedication and wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak issued the following statement on the occasion of the Prime Minister’s announcement of Bernard Valcourt named as the new Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada (AANDC): 

This portfolio has many critical issues to address such as the proposed new First Nations Education Act, changes to the Indian Act without consultation with First Nations, high level commitments made regarding treaty negotiations, on-reserve water and sewer, housing shortage crisis, inadequate reserve infrastructure and working towards establishing a First Nations resource equity position are just a small number of the major issues facing the new Minister. 

It would be nice to hear the words or a statement from the new minister opposed to regurgitation from the previous minister. It’s quite apparent from his first ‘statement’ that there is a common thread tying ministers together in a tightly controlled authoritarian Harper regime. 

I understand the new minister has a strong and accomplished record in Eastern Canada. Whether his strong record will mean anything in the highly contained and controlled Harper regime remains to be seen. The development of the Canadian idea is also fundamentally different in western Canada because of treaties that opened the west to immigrant settlement. I am uncertain as to whether the minister from eastern Canada can or will fully understand the fundamental differences. 

However, I congratulate the Honourable Bernard Valcourt on his new assignment and welcome him as the Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada, and Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. 

I encourage Mr. Valcourt to be open to considering the unique position of Indigenous people in the Canadian nation state.  He must be grounded in evolving international standards as represented by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and must be well versed in the dark colonial history and current challenges impacting First Nations people in the application of the Indian Act. 

In the new Minister’s first statement as Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Valcourt stated, “Our Government remains committed to working with those Aboriginal leaders who want to work with the Government of Canada to create jobs and growth in their communities”.

That is likely the kinds of statements that demonstrate what many First Nations see as an implied threat.