Indigenous leaders call on federal government to speed up ministry creation
Minister Jane Philpott delivers a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Fred Chartrand / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA - Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says she has heard loud and clear from many Indigenous leaders who want to see the federal government get on with creating her new ministry - a move expected to be spelled out in legislation by spring.
Philpott, who is set to make her first speech today on her new portfolio at an event held by the Public Policy Forum, said details must be ironed out for the new department but First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders want action quickly.
Its creation must be done right, she said, adding the government will not delay it "unduly."
"I've already had many conversations with leaders in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities about this," she said in an interview on Parliament Hill ahead of the event.
"They are all very supportive of the idea. In fact, I would say that the general sense is 'Get on with it,' because nobody wants to skip a beat on some of the work that we've been doing on health transformation."
Indigenous health - an area that fell under Philpott's previous purview as health minister - is also expected to follow her to the new ministry. She will also have to confront other pressing problems, including the need to address long-term boil water advisories, First Nations education and housing.
In August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Philpott will take on a new Indigenous Services Department while Carolyn Bennett will focus on the Crown's relationship with Indigenous Peoples - a key priority for the Trudeau government since coming to power in fall 2015.
The concept has sparked concern among employees at Health Canada's First Nations Inuit Health branch, according to the Union of Health and Environment Workers, but Philpott said consultations will be part of work ahead.
"Clearly there are details that need to be worked out and various groups that need to be consulted and engaged with, like unions and of course, the public service, but this is something that has been asked for a very long time," she said, referring to a recommendation from the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
The government is eyeing a "fresh start" as it looks to develop a new department, she added, noting she plans to highlight a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission today on how Ottawa must accept that the current state of Aboriginal health is a "direct result" of government policies, including residential schools.
"I think it is safe to say that ... government policies have contributed and the faster we acknowledge that and do the work of reviewing those laws and policies, changing the ones that are discriminatory, the faster we will achieve equity."