OTTAWA — INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS
The 2016 budget committed $8.4 billion over five years aimed at education, housing and other commitments in the mandate letter given to Carolyn Bennett, originally named minister of Indigenous affairs. The Liberal government did lift the two-per-cent cap on annual funding increases for First Nations on-reserve programming, but it did not happen immediately as Trudeau had promised. Bennett also worked to set up the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Working on it
Since that time, Trudeau has acknowledged how far his government has to go to fulfil his promise of implementing all 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This summer, Trudeau split the portfolio in two, naming Bennett the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and Jane Philpott the minister for Indigenous services. Both ministers are responsible for dissolving the current Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and creating two departments, which will involve consultations and legislation next spring. The monumental task of improving how the federal government handles child welfare and health services will fall to Philpott, including the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal finding that the federal government discriminates against Indigenous children.
Not at all, or at least not yet
One of Philpott’s key commitments is making sure First Nations have access to clean drinking water by eliminating all long-term boil-water advisories by 2021. As of Nov. 1, there were still more than 150 advisories in place, including some telling people not to consume the water at all.
Will it matter?
Trudeau viewed the relationship with First Nations, Metis and Inuit to be so important that he mentioned it as a top priority in the preamble to all his mandate letters. The water protectors who erected a teepee on Parliament Hill during the Canada 150 celebrations this summer — as well as the anger expressed by families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the way the national inquiry has been handled so far — exposed deep disappointment with the pace of progress.
By Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press
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