News — 13 September 2017

Local Senator Lynn Beyak emerges with more controversial rhetoric

By Chris Marchand

Regional leaders are feeling mostly positive toward the federal government’s recent move to split Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Canada (INAC) ministry into separate entities — now Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and its counterpart Indigenous Services.

Headed by former INAC minister Carolyn Bennett, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs will focus on the ongoing relationship-building with Canada’s Indigenous peoples and to advance the federal government’s work towards the goal of a nation-to-nation relationship.

Leading the Indigenous Services Ministry is former Health Minister Jane Philpott who will work to improve the quality of services/infrastructure delivered to Indigenous communities with the eventual goal of seeing programs and services being delivered by Indigenous people themselves as they move towards true self-government.

Grand Council Treaty #3 Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh says he expects the division of the ministries to result in more streamlined service delivery and a new emphasis on treaty implementation.

“The realignment signifies the desire of the Federal government to prioritize Indigenous issues and make earnest efforts towards the actualization of promises made,” said Kavanaugh in a statement.

Kenora MP and former INAC minister Bob Nault says the shuffle makes sense as the federal government moves closer towards its objective of moving beyond the Indian Act.

“To move into a self-governance structure that makes more sense in the modern era — the Indian Act was never set up to do that,” said Nault. “This process is the beginning of that. I don’t have a problem with the re-invigoration of INAC’s role because it has certainly been one that’s kept us from achieving our goals for the past decade. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I believe it’s the beginning of the message and the language we need to continue moving forward. We’re serious about what we’re trying to do and we’re going to find ways to make it work.”

Nault reminds that during his days as INAC minister, the ministry had a junior ministerial position to help manage the complexity of the portfolio and the unique relationships it needs to maintain.

“There’s no reason to suggest that this is going to become a big bureaucracy — they’re not adding bureaucrats. They’re adding a structure that makes a little more sense. We had a minister of state during the back-end of my tenure at Indian Affairs. There was a recognition that there was a lot of work to do and there still is. If we put it together the right way we’ll make some good progress.”

The most controversial take of the week on the INAC split came via local Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak who used the announcement as an opportunity to double-down on the brand of rhetoric that led to her removal from the Senate Aboriginal People’s Committee in April.

Advocating for the end of a nation-to-nation relationship, Beyak suggested that grassroots Indigenous people have long suffered at the hands of their leaders, who constantly remind them that integration or assimilation is not good for them and the rest of Canada is somehow to blame, while enjoying expense accounts, 5-star accommodations and other trappings of what she calls the Indian Act Industry.

Beyak goes on to suggest that Indigenous people in Canada abandon the notion of self-government, citing her admiration for the 1969 White Paper.

“Trade your status card for a Canadian citizenship, with a fair and negotiated payout to each Indigenous man, woman and child in Canada, to settle all the outstanding land claims and treaties, and move forward together just like the leaders already do in Ottawa.”

Nault says he’s recently offered to take Senator Beyak to visit some Northern communities in the riding but was turned down.

“I just honestly don’t think she has any idea what she’s talking about when it comes to Aboriginal affairs and the issues that have confronted Indigenous people over the last 100 years,” said Nault. “And to continue to find a way to have this discussion, as if she has something to prove, is not helpful in our relationship building exercise. I don’t understand why she would want to revisit the controversy she created by not being well-informed.”

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Chris Marchand is a native of Dryden, Ontario. He served his first newspaper internship at The Dryden Observer in 1998 while attending journalism studies at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops B.C. He's worked desks as both reporter and editor at the Fernie Free Press as well as filled the role of sports editor at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman. Marchand was named editor of the Dryden Observer in Aug. 2009.

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