Jim Prentice remembered as ‘straight shooter’ who wanted to ‘get things done’ for First Nation people

Former Alberta premier and Indigenous affairs minister Jim Prentice has died in a plane crash

APTN National News
Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice, who was the first Indian affairs minister in Stephen Harper’s government, is remembered as a “straight shooter” who wanted to “get things done” for First Nation people, according to a Manitoba grand chief.

Prentice died in a plane crash on Thursday evening near Kelowna, B.C. Prentice was on the plane with three other people, according to reports. He was 60.

A team of investigators from the federal transportation board is on its way to the scene of the crash northeast of Winfield, about 18 kilometres north of Kelowna.

Board spokesman Bill Yearwood said the Cessna Citation aircraft crashed about 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said police were alerted when the Cessna Citation business jet lost radar contact and officers secured the scene.

The RCMP said its officers and a police dog reached the crash scene shortly after midnight.

Moskaluk said the plane crashed about four kilometres into a heavily wooded area north of Beaver Lake Road, east of Lake Country.

Jim Prentice with former prime minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons. File photo
Jim Prentice with former prime minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons. File photo

Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Terry Nelson said he has fond memories of Prentice, who served as the then-named Indian affairs minister from Feb. 6, 2006, to Aug. 13, 2007.

“I think the number one thing he was a straight shooter,” said Nelson, who was chief of Roseau River First Nation when he dealt with Prentice. “He was a really good person, for me anyway…. He was a guy that got things done, he didn’t mince words. Sometimes he got himself in trouble being too honest, but I think that clearly he was somebody that had good intentions and wanted to get things done.”

Nelson said Prentice was someone who respected the handshake and was true to his word.

Prentice converted 74.8 acres to reserve lands under the treaty land entitlement process for Roseau River in just six weeks, said Nelson.

“We shook hands and sure enough, it was done,” said Nelson. “He was a really good man. My condolences to his family. I want his family to know I really appreciated his work.”

Prentice’s family released a statement saying the father-in-law of one of his daughters was also killed in the plane crash.

“Words cannot begin to express our profound shock and heartbreak at the news that our beloved husband, father and grandfather, Jim, has died in this tragic event,” said the statement. “In addition, another member of our family was also on the plane, Ken Gellatly, the father-in-law of one of our daughters, also a very special man. To lose two family members at once is unbelievably painful and we are certain you will appreciate and respect our wishes for privacy at this time and the coming weeks.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he learned with “shock and sadness” of Prentice’s death.

“Jim was a man who brought his deep convictions to everything he turned his hand to,” said Trudeau. “He was highly respected and well liked in the House of Commons across all party lines….I greatly enjoyed my interactions with Jim….I will miss him profoundly.”

Trudeau praised Prentice for his role in helping to finalize the multi-billion dollar Indian residential school settlement agreement.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, tweeted her condolences to Prentice`s family.

“Very saddened to hear the news of the tragic death of Jim Prentice,” tweeted Wilson-Raybould. “My thoughts are prayers go out to his family.”

One of Prentice’s crowning achievements as minister of Indian affairs, which is now known as Indigenous affairs, was the creation of the specific claims tribunal. The tribunal, which is still in operation, was created to deal with historical grievances from First Nations over Ottawa’s handling of lands and funds. Prentice announced the creation of the tribunal during a time of heightened tensions between Ottawa and First Nations in 2007.

Nelson had called for a day of action for June 29 that year and it led to a shutdown of Hwy 401 for 11 hours by the Mohawks from Tyendinaga.

The Caledonia crisis also exploded while Prentice was Indian affairs minister. The crisis began after Six Nations reclaimed territory that was being turned into a housing development.

Prentice, who served as federal environment minister from Oct. 30, 2008, to Nov. 4, 2010, was also hailed for rejecting Taseko Mine’s proposed Prosperity gold and copper mine which threatened Fish Lake, which was sacred to the Tsilhqot’in nation in British Columbia.

It was one of Prentice’s last acts as environment minister.

Prentice’s last role in public office was as Alberta premier from 2014 to 2015. He lost the election to Rachel Notley’s NDP.

With files from Canadian Press

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