BC Indigenous Leaders Fear Cabinet Shuffle Signals End to Reconciliation Agenda
‘We’re sitting on a time bomb,’ says one advocate.
But the cabinet shuffle is a deathblow to that approach, he said.
“I think the prime minister himself has made a very clear decision to completely abandon the reconciliation agenda in favour of supporting business and industry in terms of oil and gas infrastructure development and other similar projects,” said Phillip.
“A clearing of the reconciliation deck, so to speak.”
Clark says that even before the cabinet shuffle, the government, while doing good work on programs and services for on-reserve First Nations people, has ignored the off-reserve and non-status Indigenous populations.
“All the governments across the land, to my knowledge, are doing the same thing. If you’re serious about children in care, missing and murdered women, homelessness, closing the gaps for education, then you have to involve the organizations that work with off-reserve people. And they have yet to do that.”
‘A very interesting 2019’
Philpott was the first minister of Indigenous services after Trudeau split the former Indigenous affairs and northern development ministry into two ministries in August 2017.
Philpott became responsible for fixing child welfare systems across the country, where more than half the children in government care were Indigenous. This was, she said, a “humanitarian crisis.”
Turpel-Lafond says Philpott was “very effective in the child welfare area.”
“Child welfare issues have been brought to the brink of fundamental reform,” under Philpott, she said, referring to the coming legislation that would place responsibility for Indigenous child welfare back in Indigenous hands.
“And if people don’t go down that road, people like myself worry that we can’t afford to lose another generation to a situation where there’s no change,” said Turpel-Lafonde. “I’m very worried about whether minister O’Regan will be able to get up to speed on it.”
Philpott was supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups across the country in her work on this legislation, said Phillip.
“It seems like all of that good work has just been swept aside in the interests of pipeline politics,” he said. “The Trudeau government has dropped the ball in so many different areas, I think they’ve lost the confidence and the faith of the Canadian public.
“I can’t see Indigenous people supporting Trudeau, given the things that have happened. Talk about the poster child for messing things up.”
Turpel-Lafond predicts that if Trudeau continues to turn away from his Indigenous commitments, 2019 will mark a turning point with “a lot more” on-the-ground advocacy and action from Indigenous people.
“We’re looking at a very interesting year in 2019.”