Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is proposing fundamental reforms to Indigenous affairs, upending a system of governance that has been in place for the better part of this country’s 150-year history.
The federal Liberal government will split Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) into two separate ministries, some 20 years after the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended such a division.
Trudeau promised new legislation in the near term to formally begin the process of splitting a ministry that has more than 4,500 employees scattered across the country and a budget in excess of $9 billion.
“There’s a sense that we’ve pushed the creaky old structures at INAC as far as they can go,” Trudeau said Monday in announcing changes to the department.
Despite the prime minister’s lofty goals, some experts warn fundamental reforms of this sort could actually lead to more headaches.
“In terms of practical outcomes, I think it might actually have a negative effect,” Christopher Alcantara, an expert on Indigenous-settler relations at Western University, said in an interview with CBC News.
“It’s going to complicate decision-making because now you have two ministers competing for resources around the cabinet table. Instead of an integrated process you’re going to have silos, little empires that guard their resources. I worry about this, I worry about the lack of co-ordination,” he said.
Jane Philpott will lead Indigenous Services, a department that will oversee programs for status Indians, including welfare, education, child and family services, housing, long-term water advisories and, eventually, the provision of health care.
Philpott will oversee a department that has long been beset with governance issues and complaints from Indigenous Peoples that it is paternalistic and colonialist in nature.
“We’re undoing generations of dysfunctional and discriminatory structures,” the outgoing health minister said Monday. “We don’t want to pretend…