Keeping in Touch – Message from the Minister
April 10, 2008
During the past 15 years or so that I’ve been involved in federal politics, I have written a regular newspaper column for my constituents. It’s usually a non-partisan piece that lets people know what I’ve been up to as their federal representative, or tells a story about interesting people or events I have contact with in my travels.I would like to do the same thing as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, since I continue to meet many outstanding people associated in some way to this portfolio, and the events I’m privileged to attend are unique and sometimes even truly historic. Often the “news” may be useful or pertinent to many others, and giving regular updates will also let people know where I’ve been travelling and what’s going on in Ottawa.
Besides the regular political intrigue that comes with a minority Parliament, one of the biggest legislative stories in Ottawa these days continues to be the roll-out of Bill C-30, the Specific Claims Tribunal Act. This is big news, and the proposal to create an arms-length-from-government Tribunal to deal with Specific Claims is long overdue. Aboriginal leaders have been calling for this for 60 years. Prime Minister Stephen Harper labelled it ‘Justice At Last’ when he announced it alongside National Chief Phil Fontaine in June of 2007. While it will be a huge step forward in resolving outstanding claims, I believe its greatest achievement may be that our government co-authored this legislation with the help of the Assembly of First Nations.So far, all political Parties have supported it in the House of Commons, and it is now being reviewed by a Parliamentary Committee.
The Bill is a fine example of what’s possible when governments and organizations work together, but (perhaps as importantly) AFN National Chief Fontaine and I also signed a political side agreement after we had co-drafted the legislation. This commits us to work together on a range of important projects (for example, on Spec Claims worth more than $150 million), and has already borne fruit when we held a long-awaited (and truly historic) Treaty Conference in Saskatoon last month.
No one pretends that different governments – whether federal, provincial, First Nations, or municipal – will always see eye-to-eye on every issue. But C-30 shows that our best moments happen when we do.
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians