(Geoffrey Kelley, Quebec minister responsible for native affairs)
Geoffrey Kelley, Quebec minister responsible for native affairs, thinks it’s time that the provincial government creates a new, bolstered ministry of Indigenous affairs.
Currently, the Secretariat aux affaires autochtones (SAA) is the body responsible for overseeing the relationship between Indigenous people and the Quebec government.
For 35 years, this entity has worked with Quebec First Nations and Inuit to facilitate access to programs and services.
But, with the spotlight on the relationship between the Quebec government and Indigenous peoples, Kelley says the province needs to overhaul the SAA and pump more funding into a new Indigenous ministry.
“The Quebec government is going to have to make sure that it has resources and the structures necessary to respond,” says Kelley, who’s not running for reelection Oct. 1.
But Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador, was surprised by the minister’s comments.
“That suggestion that Quebec would be better served by a ministry of Indigenous affairs just does not hold water as long as I am concerned because it is very much paternalistic and it is like turning back the clock,” Picard says.
He suggests a government-to-government model similar to Ontario’s ministry of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, which oversees the relationship between Ontario and Indigenous governments.
“Our peoples have the capacity and are in the position to be speaking for themselves,” he says.