Split not the di er­ence needed in Ot­tawa

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - CANADA - Jas­mine Ka­batay For Metro Views

If there’s one thing the Trudeau gov­ern­ment does well, it’s sym­bol­ism.

On Mon­day, Justin Trudeau an­nounced a shakeup in Indige­nous and North­ern A airs by split­ting it in two.

In charge of these new min­istries will be Carolyn Ben­nett, who headed the now-de­funct mega min­istry, and Jane Philpott, for­merly health min­is­ter.

Philpott, now the Min­is­ter of Indige­nous Ser­vices, will over­see health care, hous­ing, drink­ing wa­ter and other well­be­ing is­sues. Ben­nett, now Min­is­ter of Crown-Indige­nous Re­la­tions and North­ern Af­fairs, will fo­cus on ne­go­ti­at­ing treaty rights and land claims.

But what ex­actly will the split achieve? I ap­plaud the step to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, but at this point it feels like rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is just a word the Trudeau gov­ern­ment par­rots while get­ting lit­tle done.

Trudeau made plenty of prom­ises to Indige­nous Peo­ples that haven’t come through, like veto power over de­vel­op­ment on our ter­ri­to­ries. (Yet two pipe­lines were ap­proved.) He also promised to lift the 2 per cent cap on fund­ing for on-re­serve First Na­tions ser­vices, but hasn’t.

He in­stead uses sym­bols or kicks o pro­cesses, in which things seem like they are hap­pen­ing but not much does. Take, for in­stance, the in­quiry into mur­dered and miss­ing Indige­nous women and girls.

Split­ting two de­part­ments is just start­ing an­other process — at our ex­pense. Fur­ther­more, Philpott pre­vi­ously over­saw the de­nial of Health Canada fund­ing for Indige­nous chil­dren soon be­fore two young girls killed them­selves. Will she be ca­pa­ble of over­see­ing the well­be­ing of Indige­nous Peo­ples now or will there be an­other fund­ing is­sue?

Ul­ti­mately, the suc­cess of the split hangs on how open Ot­tawa is to change. If the gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ous, there needs to be di er­ent think­ing, not just di er­ent de­part­ments.

The suc­cess of the split hangs on how open Ot­tawa is to change.

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