Canada’s PM splits up northern and Indigenous affairs in cabinet shuffle

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Dominic LeBlanc, the new Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, during a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a major cabinet shuffle on Wednesday  that saw northern affairs and Indigenous relations split apart.

The populations of Canada’s three northern territories has the largest percentage of Indigenous peoples in the country:  85.9 per cent in the eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, 50.7 per cent in the Northwest Territories and 23.3 per cent in the northwestern territory of Yukon, according to the 2016 census.

Previously, northern and Indigenous affairs was overseen by Carolyn Bennett as minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

While Carolyn Bennett remains minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations after Wednesday’s cabinet shakeup, the northern affairs portfolio has been given to former fisheries, oceans and coast guard minister Dominic LeBlanc.

LeBlanc will now be known as Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade.

Carolyn Bennett, pictured here during Question Period in Canada’s House of Commons in June 2018, remains Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
No details on reason for split

A news release issued by the prime minister’s office on Wednesday didn’t outline the reason for splitting northern affairs from Indigenous relations but said Bennett would “continue her important work to renew the nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown and government-to-government relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.”

The release gave details of Leblanc’s responsibilities for intergovernmental affairs and internal trade, but didn’t offer specifics on the northern affairs file other than that LeBlanc would “work to address the needs and priorities of Northerners, including devolution.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Canada’s Northwest Territories begins tough job of implementing devolution deal, CBC News

Denmark/Greenland: With Siumut’s re-election, will Greenland welcome Chinese investment?, Cryopolitics Blog

Norway: Northern Norway merger overwhelmingly rejected in regional referendum, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s government wants to boost “neglected” countryside, Radio Sweden

United States: Inuit leaders meeting in Alaska seek greater voice in governance, Radio Canada International

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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