Innu leader named top minister as Harper unveils new cabinet

Former Labrador Innu leader Peter Penashue was appointed minister of intergovernmental affairs by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who unveiled his the first cabinet of his new majority government Wednesday.

APTN National News
–Former Labrador Innu leader Peter Penashue was appointed minister of intergovernmental affairs by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who unveiled the first cabinet of his new majority government Wednesday.

John Duncan kept his portfolio, but the Prime Minister’s Office changed his title to minister of Aboriginal affairs and northern development instead of Indian affairs and northern development.

Concerns immediately emerged that an Aboriginal affairs minister may mean the government is looking to approach First Nations, Metis and Inuit issues as one in the same, despite each having their own distinct political, cultural and legal realities.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the Conservative MP from Nunavut, also retained the Health portfolio, but gained a new responsibility as minister of Canadian northern economic development.

Aglukkaq and Penashue made history, making Harper’s latest cabinet the first with two Aboriginal ministers.

Penashue, who was also named as president of the Queen’s Privy Council, was the only Conservative elected in Newfoundland and Labrador in the election. He is the former head of the Labrador Innu Nation and is also the first Innu ever to be elected as an MP.

Penashue has been a long time fighter for the rights of Labrador Innu and even took on the military in opposition to low level flight training in Labrador in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Penashue was also involved in shedding light on the dire situation facing the community of Davis Inlet, now Natuashish.

Harper told reporters that Penashue had an “outstanding record” as an Innu leader and that he had won a “historic” election in Newfoundland and Labrador. Penashue was the first Tory elected in Labrador since 1968.

He was also a key player in pushing through a major land-claim for the Labrador Innu.

Joining Duncan and Aglukkaq in keeping their cabinet posts were Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino, who has faced criticism over the handling of the Caledonia crisis and the 2007 shut-down of Hwy 401 by Tyendinaga Mohawks, was named associate minister of defence.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose also retained her Status of Women portfolio.

Others in named to the Harper cabinet include:

*Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finely

*Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda

* Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

* Treasury Board President Toney Clement

* House Leader Peter Van Loan

* Immigration Minister Jason Kenney

*Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz

*Minister of Industry Christian Paradis

*Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore

*Transport Minister Denis Label

*Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield

*Environment Minister Peter Kent

*Labour Minister Lisa Raitt

*Revenue Minister Gail Shea

*Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney

*Minister of International Trade Ed Fast

*Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver

*Minister of State for ACOA Bernard Valcourt

*Government Whip Gordon O’Connor

*Minister of State for small business Maxime Bernier

*Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy

*Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification

*Minister of State for Transport Steven Fletcher

*Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear

*Minister of State for Finance Ted Menzies

*Minister of State for Democratic Reform Tim Uppal

*Minister of State for Seniors Alice Wong

*Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal

Online Producer / Ottawa

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.