Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Jane Philpott, the new Minister of Indigenous Services, will be responsible for replacing the Indian Act. Robert Thivierge and Dave Kalmbach, Wikimedia Commons

Indigenous leaders look for renewal

  • September 15, 2017

OTTAWA - Two Catholic Indigenous leaders are cautiously optimistic about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plans to abolish the Indian Act and renew relations with Canada’s first peoples.

Ahead of a first minister’s meeting Oct. 3 in Ottawa with national Indigenous leaders, Trudeau shuffled his cabinet in August and divided the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Department into two ministries, one to provide services and the other to oversee treaties and treaty negotiations.

Harry Lafond, a parish administrator for the Muskeg Lake First Nation, hopes the shuffle will encourage real change inside a federal bureaucracy that has been stuck in its ways.

“That bureaucracy is driven by a long history of Canadian policy and laws that continue the colonizing practices of its predecessors,” Lafond said.

Former Minister of Health Jane Philpott is the new Minister of Indigenous Services, while Carolyn Bennett, the former minister of the department, will become Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, responsible for replacing the Indian Act.

Bennett’s department “has the greatest potential right now of initiating a change process that will lead us to a better place,” Lafond said.

Deacon Rennie Nahanee, coordinator of ministry and outreach to Indigenous peoples for the Vancouver archdiocese and a member of the Squamish First Nation, endorses the new “nationto- nation approach.”

While he agrees the Indian Act must go, he worries about what would replace it.

“If taking away the Indian Act moves us to come under the provinces that would not be good,” he said.

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