Prime minister tells cabinet ministers to concentrate on COVID-19, UNDRIP, clean water and justice 

mandate letters

The Prime Minister's Office in Ottawa across from Parliament Hill. Justin Trudeau issued a series of mandate letters to his ministers on Thursday. Photo: APTN.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new mandate letters to his 38 members of cabinet were published online Thursday and show that ending the fight against COVID-19 remains the top priority across government.

But he says the pandemic cannot throw everything off course and the letters highlight the need to fight the “existential threat” of climate change and ensure a future where all Canadians have “a real and fair chance at success.”

That includes addressing systemic inequities and racism. The letter also orders every minister to take the time to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in their departments.

In Justice, Minister David Lametti was told to focus on the over-incarceration of Indigenous Peoples, and the appointment of a Special Interlocutor to further advance justice on unmarked graves and address the legacy of residential schools.

He was also advised to advance the priorities of Indigenous communities to reclaim jurisdiction over the administration of justice in collaboration with the provinces and territories, and support and fund the revitalization of Indigenous laws, legal systems and traditions.

And, further, Lametti was instructed to continue establishing an independent Criminal Case Review Commission to improve access to justice for potentially wrongfully convicted people to have their applications reviewed.

At Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Minister Marc Miller was told his “immediate priority is to provide the necessary supports for communities as they undertake searches of unmarked graves and burial sites at residential schools, and ensure supports for healing and commemoration to preserve and protect the rights and dignity of children who never made it home,” the letter said. 

“It is critical that you lead the work of all Ministers to accelerate the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action and implement the 2021 Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, including providing sustainable resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and advance the 2021 National Action Plan to address missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.”

At Northern Affairs, Dan Vandal, who is also responsible for economic development on the Prairies, was advised to focus on the Arctic, including the need to improve access to food and the multi-billion housing problem. 

“As Minister of Northern Affairs, you will continue to prioritize the implementation of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, including to advance key initiatives to improve housing and food security and close the gap in education outcomes,” his letter said.  

Vandal was also told to “continue to support Inuit-specific approaches through work with Inuit and the provincial and territorial governments, on the elimination of tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat.”

Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous Services Canada, already has a number of massive files on her desk, including revamping First Nations child welfare, continuing to build clean water infrastructure in First Nations communities and to “support First Nations-led processes to transition away from the Indian Act.

“Work with communities and institutions to invest in capacity building initiatives that support and advance self-determination like the 10-year Grant,” Hajdu’s letter instructed. 

The pandemic knocked many of the plans outlined in Trudeau’s 2019 mandate letters off course and this latest batch hints at a sense of urgency to finally deliver on some of the Liberal government’s biggest promises.

Trudeau is also requiring every minister to come up with a plan for implementing everything in their mandate letters and regularly report publicly on their progress.

With files from The Canadian Press

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