Inuit leaders are reacting to a recent cabinet shuffle by the federal government, with the leader of an organization representing Inuit across Canada saying that the shifting of Indigenous portfolios within cabinet is “concerning.”
“I know that this is a part of politics,” said Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). “We have had to work with many different ministers on the same portfolio in key areas within this government already.”
On Monday, the government shuffled cabinet after an announcement from Treasury Board president Scott Brison that he would not run in the 2019 federal election. The resulting changes moved Jane Philpott from the Indigenous Services portfolio to replace Brison as the head of the Treasury Board.
Seamus O’Regan will take over Philpott’s role as minister of Indigenous Services, moving from the Veterans Affairs portfolio.
The moves follow a July shuffle in which the ministry of Northern Affairs was split from the ministry of Crown-Indigenous relations.
“Having the Indigenous portfolio being carved up two significant times within the last three years this has created a big challenge for Inuit and I think all Indigenous leaders to try to move with government and try to understand how to engage in the correct way,” said Obed.
Obed said he trusts that the federal government will keep focus on the progress they have made and it will not be lost with the changing of individual ministers.
ITK has been working with Philpott on numerous issues, including tuberculosis elimination and suicide prevention. The organization wants to continue to work on legislation around child and family services, preserving Indigenous languages and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
“I’m really going to be pushing Minister O’Regan to fulfill the commitments and the good intentions that Minister Philpott and this government had been engaging with us on,” said Obed.
Obed added that there is always opportunity when cabinet is shuffled, saying that the strong working relationship ITK built with Minister Philpott can be an asset to the organization in her new role on the Treasury Board.
“I’m pleased that she’d be taking on such an important portfolio within the government, because historically we’ve had a hard time connecting with the Treasury Board,” said Obed.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), an organization that is responsible for making sure the promises of the Nunavut agreement are carried out, said they also had a strong working relationship with Minister Philpott.
“I hope that the new minister will continue that approach when we were working with them through the Inuit-Crown partnership committee,” said Aluki Kotierk, the president of NTI.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canada’s Inuit set out their priorities for federal Arctic policy roadmap, Radio Canada International
United States: Alaska reckons with missing data on murdered Indigenous women, Alaska Public Media