Atleo presses case for new FN ministry

AFN national Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is continuing to press for the creation of a new ministry to replace “cumbersome” Indian Affairs

APTN National News
OTTAWA–AFN national Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is continuing to press for the creation of a new ministry to replace “cumbersome” Indian Affairs.

Atleo made the pitch again Monday. This time in an op-ed piece published in Parliament’s insider weekly, The Hill Times.

“The machinery of government must evolve beyond the cumbersome Department of Indian Affairs into a more effective and efficient entities like a Ministry of First Nations–Crown Relations,” wrote Atleo.

He also called for the creation of a “Section 35 Attorney General” and a “Treaty Rights Tribunal.”

Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution protects Aboriginal and treaty rights. Presumably, the Attorney General would handle section 35 cases before the courts and the Treaty Rights Tribunal would provide a process outside the courtroom to settle treaty-related issues.

The Hill Times is read primarily by MPs, their staff, Hill journalists and those who make their living on Parliament Hill.

Atleo was unavailable for comment, according to a spokeswoman.

Atleo first raised the issue in June during the AFN’s general assembly in Winnipeg when he first called for the scrapping of the Indian Act.

Atleo also mentioned the new ministry in late August during a speech to 700 public servants during an Institute of Public Administration of Canada conference, said spokeswoman Jenna Young.

Atleo was co-chair of the conference and the first Aboriginal person to hold that position in the institute’s 62-year history.

“We will address the machinery of the Department of Indian Affairs. The department we suggest, must evolve in favour of leaner and more efficient entities like a Ministry of First Nation–Crown Relations; a Section 35 Attorney General and a Treaty Rights Tribunal, all of which will ensure constitutional rights are safe-guarded and accountable,” said Atleo, according to a copy of his speaking notes from that evening.

It’s unclear how much his proposals would cost.

Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Former Indian Affairs minister Chuck Strahl, who is now Transport Minister, told chiefs last December that, as a result of the slowing economy, Ottawa had less money to use and they should all expect to tighten their belts.

At the December special chiefs assembly, the gathered leaders called for an about $1.5 billion investment in education.

Atleo is holding a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday morning along with Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Gilbert Whiteduck and an AFN youth representative, as part of that education campaign.

The education campaign appears to be gaining traction among Ottawa’s political leaders. When asked Monday what his priorities were on the Aboriginal file in the coming Parliamentary session, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said “education, education, education, education.”

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