Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic August 28, 2017 - 2:45 pm

Bye, bye INAC: Trudeau to split department into two pieces

“The level of the ambition of this government cannot be achieved through existing colonial structures”

Tamara Takpanie and Janice Olayou of Nunavut performing at Rideau Hall Aug. 28 at the swearing-in of new cabinet ministers. (WEB VIDEO GRAB)
Tamara Takpanie and Janice Olayou of Nunavut performing at Rideau Hall Aug. 28 at the swearing-in of new cabinet ministers. (WEB VIDEO GRAB)

Declaring that “existing colonial structures” do not work, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Aug. 28 that the federal government department known as Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada will be dissolved and replaced by two new entities to be handled by two cabinet ministers.

“I’m tremendously excited by this meaningful step,” Trudeau told reporters at a web-streamed news conference in front of Rideau Hall.

Carolyn Bennett, who has been known since the fall of 2015 as the minister of INAC, gets a new job title: minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

At the same time, Jane Philpott, who until Aug. 28 served as national health minister, moves to a new portfolio: minister of Indigenous Services.

Philpott’s task will be to oversee the services that Ottawa still delivers directly to many Indigenous peoples, especially First Nations.

The INAC department is a colonial structure that was designed primarily to implement the Indian Act, “a colonial, paternalistic law,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

And INAC’s current structure does not meet the needs of Inuit and Métis, the PMO said.

“INAC was also not designed or conceived of to support and partner with Inuit and Métis peoples, based on their unique histories, circumstances and aspirations. To put it plainly, the level of the ambition of this government cannot be achieved through existing colonial structures.”

Right now, it’s not clear what this means for Nunavut and other Inuit regions, where most government services are delivered by territorial and regional governments and not directly by Ottawa.

Trudeau’s restructuring moves follow a recommendation from the 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples that called for the INAC department to be split into two entities, one to handle the services the department provides directly to Indigenous peoples, and the other to handle Indigenous rights matters and northern issues.

“We agree with the Royal Commission that rights recognition must be an imperative, and that is why today we are announcing the dissolution of INAC,” Trudeau said.

And Trudeau said these structural changes will be completed “in cooperation with Indigenous peoples.”

At a news conference held after the announcement, Trudeau said this means the government will hold extensive consultations as it moves through the restructuring process.

“This dissolution of INAC will be staged,” Trudeau’s office said.

A key part of Bennett’s new mandate will be to lead a consultation process on how to replace INAC with two new departments, Trudeau’s office said.

At the same time, Philpott will focus on improving the quality of day-to-day services provided to First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

“A rigorous results and delivery approach will be adopted, focused on improving outcomes for Indigenous peoples.”

Philpott’s Indigenous Service department might also take on functions transferred to it from other federal departments, such as health care delivery, the PMO said, and that eventually , service delivery will be done by Indigenous peoples as they move toward self-government.

The changes will also require legislative amendments, the PMO said.

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick MP, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, will replace Philpott as national health minister.

The Newfoundland MP, Seamus O’Regan, becomes minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, replacing Kent Hehr at Veterans Affairs.

Hehr will now become minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

And Carla Qualtrough, until now the sports minister, becomes minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Judy Foote, the MP who had been handling the PSPC portfolio, stepped aside this past April to deal with a family health crisis. Industry Minister Jim Carr had been filling in for her temporarily.

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(13) Comments:

#1. Posted by eskimowoman on August 28, 2017

I am very pleased to see the changes made by our young & intelligent Prime Minister. This overhaul is long past due. Colonization reminders need to disappear, in order for Holistic Healing to take place. Only then, Indeginous ppl can move forward, improves ourselves & contribute to society for a better community. I will look anxiously forward to the follow-ups. Thank U. Quyanainni

#2. Posted by Tulugak on August 28, 2017

PM Trudeau refers to the report of the RCAP (1996) about the split of INAC but is mute about the joint recommendation of the Commission to have a new Royal Proclamation that the government would recognize and act upon the rights of Indigenous peoples. As well, it remains to be seen if this is going to increase the bureaucracy and the costs instead of making a real difference for Indigenous people in their communities. Trudeau has not been consistent with his promises and has not acted on them: he disregarded the duty to obtain the free and informed consent of Indigenous peoples when their rights are affected by major projects (TransMountain pipeline and Site C dam etc.) and his govenrment failed to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. His government appealed a court decision that was in favour of Indigenous kids, failing to recongnize their services were funded well below services for other kids. Let’s see where this is going to lead us…

#3. Posted by Anonymous on August 28, 2017

1.Declaring that “existing colonial structures” do not work….said the PM

That is a hilarious joke that he calls one of the cabinet ministers “Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs…”

#4. Posted by My Oh My on August 28, 2017

Changes for the betterment of Living in the Arctic?,,,Changes for the betterment of Southern Canada?,,, it seems like such good news, but yes # 2 your last sentence says it all…

#5. Posted by Nooka on August 28, 2017

I am pleased.  I do believe Trudeau feels it in his heart from his Dad bringing him up north, as a kid.

When his Dad realized there were no Treaties with Inuit that the question of who owned the North was still wide open, due to the fact Inuit had never been conquered, ceded their land or had it expropriated, Pierre Trudeau went on to support Aboriginal Rights and stood up to the Premiers in 1982, on behalf of Indigenous peoples!

Young Justin must have absorbed all that.  I believe he means what he says on this issue. Good.

#6. Posted by Sled dog on August 28, 2017

So who gets the MMIW dog and pony show.

#7. Posted by descendant of Qabloonaaq affairs ? on August 29, 2017

How about calling a spade a shovel, we still do not have a department of Kabloonaaq Affairs

#8. Posted by Colin on August 29, 2017

Remember the saying about moving the deckchairs on the Titanic?

You need to know that Trudeau is as much a control freak as Harper ever was. But his only prior work experience was as a drama teacher for rich kids.

The Trudeau-Philpott team resisted all initiatives to reform health care, leaving Canada third from the bottom in the ranking for eleven rich countries.

They also sat on the file for implementing a prescription drugs plan despite the existence of a template for action in New Zealand.

Bennett has proven to be totally ineffectual and that won’t change.

You may recall that Trudeau promised to close the gap between what Indians and Inuit get and how other Canadians live. That requires delivering the opportunities for education, sports and recreation, and skills training and employment opportunities that TRC commissioner and now Senator Murray Smith had when growing up in Selkirk, Manitoba.

#9. Posted by Nunavimiu on August 29, 2017

Will this delay current projects in review? Will these potential projects and it’s leaders have to explain the goals and objectives to new staff? Will the new staff have different feelings after re-starting of the whole review process? By the time all of this is done, there might be a conservative government in place again. All policies/ funds that are in-tune with Inuit values might be abolished by then. I feel this is a great initiative but… how will our current efforts be protected? Kept on track? Nurtured?

Band vs Hamlet/ Northern Village, Municipalities. Most Canadians still don’t know the difference. Will this clarify the misconceptions?

#10. Posted by Canada on August 29, 2017

@7: every other department is a department of Qabloonaaq affairs

#11. Posted by Montréal Gazette 30 July 1968 on August 29, 2017

The Trudeau prime ministers are all about keeping the their Liberal party in power.  Pierre Trudeau said white people going to the North should learn Inuktitut just as young Inuit are expected to learn English and French.  The language of Inuktitut teaching to white people was lip service.  The end of his comments spoke of his true interest for the Liberals and not for the people “This is the only way we can keep this country united and the only way we can face our future, because if we don’t face it, if we don’t solve these problems, other people will.”  Who are the “other people”?  and is the end result that white people who are servicing the North learn Inuktitut more important than politics?

#12. Posted by Yewtree on August 30, 2017

Trudeau doesn’t seem to have consulted any First Nations, Inuit, or Métis people about the splitting of the department. That still indicates colonialist thinking, it seems to me.

I think he should fully commit to implementing UNDRIP and the TRC recommendations, and to properly educating settlers about colonial depredations on First Nations land, residential schools, etc.

#13. Posted by HeMan Gaga on August 30, 2017

There is a very simple way to fix the problem.  Just fire the managers if the Indian Affairs thing and put the whole department under 3rd party management.  Those are incompetent mangers like Indian Chiefs.  Only the they have been incompetent longer. 

Or is there a rule where government managers can be functionally incompetent and still keep their jobs.  We think so. 

Indigenous department has been able to tinker and twittle for decades.  They are in the habit of spending 80% of the department on the department while spending the other 20% on the community. 

Good job.  Then they also inform the client communities of the various programs they can legally use.  Guess what?  These very competent bureacrats send money back to finance because the poverty riddled reseves did not use them.  How sick is that.  Trash this department.

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