Split not the di erence needed in Ottawa
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.