‘Aboriginal affairs’ name change ‘disrespectful,’ says Anishinabek Nation

-The Stephen Harper government’s decision to erase the word “Indian” and replace it with “Aboriginal” in the title for the minister and department responsible for dealing with Indigenous peoples is being called “disrespectful” by one of the oldest First Nations political organizations in Ontario.

APTN National News
OTTAWAThe Stephen Harper government’s decision to erase the word “Indian” and replace it with “Aboriginal” in the title for the minister and department responsible for dealing with Indigenous peoples is being called “disrespectful” by one of the oldest First Nations political organizations in Ontario.

The Anishinabek Nation issued a statement from its grand chief Wednesday shortly after the name change surfaced, accusing the federal government of disrespecting and “slighting” First Nations people.

“We are not Aboriginal, we are Anishinabek,” said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. “Trying to lump First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples together might save space on the minister’s business card, but it is disrespectful of the truly distinct nature of the communities with whom he needs to establish better relationships.”

Madahbee said that if the Harper government and his name-changed Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan really wanted to build a better relationship they should first start by identifying each Indigenous nation by their actual name.

“There is no such thing as an Aboriginal treaty or an Aboriginal nation,” said Madahbee. “How would Stephen Harper like it if he were introduced as the prime minister of Panamerica?”

Duncan’s title was previously minister of Indian and northern affairs. The government also plans to replace Indian with Aboriginal in the department’s current name which is Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

A spokesman for the PMO said the name change was done so it “better reflects the scope of the minister’s responsibilities with respect to First Nations, Inuit and Metis.”

Andrew MacDougall said the new title was “more up to date and inclusive” and “consistent with the government’s focus on moving forward in our relationship with Aboriginal peoples.”

MacDougall said the title change did not change Duncan’s “statutory responsibilities” and he remained authorized to act as the federal interlocutor for Metis and Non-status Indians.

Harper also made history by naming two Aboriginal ministers in the same cabinet for the first time.

Labrador Innu leader Peter Penashue was named minister of intergovernmental affairs, while Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq retained her post as health minister.

Aglukkaq was also given the added portfolio of minister of Canadian northern economic development.

The Anishinabek Nation encompasses 39 communities across Ontario, totaling about 55,000 people.

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Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.