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Indigenous leaders have role to play in modernizing First Nations

No Comments 05 October 2017

When the Indian Act was amended back in 1985 to conform with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the biggest opponents of abolishing institutionalized sexism were Aboriginal chiefs.

 

By SHEILA COPPS

First published on Monday, September 4, 2017 in The Hill Times.

OTTAWA—Last week’s cabinet remake will prompt a much-needed reboot of the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

By splitting it in two, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is legally acknowledging what many have realized for years.

The promised delivery of territorial services in remote Indigenous communities is a huge undertaking that will take more than an election promise to deliver.

Trudeau has announced a five-year timeline to abolish all boil-water advisories on territorial lands.

For most of us, comfortably ensconced in homes with ample access to running water, a day’s shutoff is a catastrophe.

But for hundreds of Aboriginal communities, the idea of daily access to clean drinking water is literally a pipe dream.

At the end of 2016, more than 150 communities across the country had to boil their tap water before use.

In some cases, like Shoal Lake in northwestern Ontario, and Kitigan Zibi in Quebec, the local population has not accessed safe drinking water for up to two decades.

By splitting Indigenous Affairs into two separate departments, the prime minister is fleshing out the specifics of his promise to reconcile historic divisions with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit.

As he said in support of the shuffle, “There’s a sense that we’ve pushed the creaky old structures at INAC as far as they can go”.

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© 2017 Sheila Copps.