(Alberta’s Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs minister Kathleen Ganley standing in front of Legislature. Photo: Brandi Morin/APTN)
APTN National News
EDMONTON — Alberta’s new Aboriginal Relations Minister Kathleen Ganley said she is excited to work toward taking the lead in repairing the relationship with Aboriginal communities in the province.
In an interview with APTN, Ganley said she believes that work started in June when her boss, Premier Rachel Notley, formally apologized for the province’s role in residential schools.
Ganley is well aware that the relationship is in need of mending and admits it will take a lot of work from both sides.
“Given the history of the relationship and the discord that’s occurred, and even going back further in time, the fact that we tore children away from their homes (we mostly just stood by) that’s a huge problem,” she said.
Ganley said the NDP government’s backbone vision is to work to ensure that all Albertans are respected and included and that all have equal opportunity.
“That everyone has a chance to prosper in this province,” she said. “And once we have built that trust I think we can work together to make sure that Indigenous people, like all Albertans, have access to basic services, livelihoods and a good quality of life.”
Ganely is a labour and employment lawyer who has also worked in human rights and policy law.
She is brand new to politics and said she is taking every opportunity to learn about her new ministerial portfolios which also includes being the Justice Minister.
So far, it seems she is handling the tasks with the support of a collectively minded government.
“We’re getting things done. We’re all on the same page so it’s a great motivating tool.”
Premier Rachel Notely recently mandated all of her MLAs to begin looking at ways to implement the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights.
Notley declared the Alberta Government will work with Indigenous peoples as “true partners” to ensure their constitutional rights are protected; the air, land and water that all Albertans rely on is protected; and will work to build more prosperous, self-reliant and culturally strong communities.
It is an undertaking that Notley hopes will help create a renewed and improved relationship. MLAs are expected to report back by February 1, 2016 on how they will apply UNDRIP to their governing areas.
Ganley said the process will involve extensive consultation and in the coming months will travel the province to meet with various Indigenous peoples.
“We don’t want to implement our own view on our own. There’s going to be some places where there’s going to be some difficult conversations, particularly around land and land rights,” said Ganley.
The province is working on developing a memorandum of understanding with those involved, but it is a process that requires further development as they go about exploring this new endeavour.
“I think the most important part is to work directly with Indigenous peoples and communities to determine how they want to be involved and what they think consultation should look like.”
The new government plans to repeal the controversial Bill 22, the Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act introduced by the former PC Government that upset many First Nations who said they were not consulted.
The bill allowed the province to regulate consultation with industry over development on Aboriginal land.
Many First Nations boycotted the legislation last year.
“The problem with bill 22 was that it wasn’t implemented properly. That’s probably the biggest example of the flawed process that we are trying to avoid going forward. The process where the government decides, ‘ok, well here’s what we’re going to do’ and they just do it and their consultation is just to tell people that they’ve done it.”
The question of resource revenue sharing is one that Alberta First Nations hope to again start creating dialogue around.
A study conducted by Alberta chiefs showed that if First Nations shared in just 5 per cent of resource profits they would be self-sufficient. New Assembly of First Nations Chief Craig Mackinaw recently told APTN this will be a topic he will be addressing with the province.
Ganley said she is not opposed to discussions on resource revenue sharing, however the outcomes will depend on interactions that will require input from all government departments.
“We’re going to do a review and with everyone working together.”
The Metis will also be included in consultation discussions.
“The government doesn’t consult with the Metis the same as it does First Nations. We should be including them in those conversations. We have to move forward in a way that will be fair to everyone.”
In addition to backing a national inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women, Ganley said the government is working to improve the lives and safety of Aboriginal women through various community-based initiatives.
She said it is a problem that the government takes seriously and said they won’t sit around to wait solely on a national inquiry.
“This is a critical issue that we need to move on now.”
Ganley highlighted some of the initiatives that the government is undertaking including support for the Moose Hide campaign aimed at taking a stand against violence towards Aboriginal women, working with human service organizations, women shelters both on and off reserve, helping women with addiction issues and supporting at-risk families.
Ganely concluded by saying she is looking forward to continuing to build a better relationship, and so far the reception she’s received has been good.
“I’m surprised. I fell very lucky that everyone has been so open and willing to work with us.”