APTN National News
Aboriginal Affairs minister John Duncan tendered his resignation today and Prime Minister Stephen Harper accepted it.
“Today, I have accepted the resignation of John Duncan as minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development,” said Harper.
Duncan will continue to serve as the member of parliament for Vancouver Island North in the House of Commons.
Harper issued the statement shortly after 4 p.m. Friday.
Minutes later Duncan issued his own.
“In June of 2011 I wrote a character reference letter to the Tax Court of Canada on behalf of an individual to whom my constituency staff was providing casework assistance on a Canada Revenue Agency matter,” the first line in his statement said attributed to Duncan.
Duncan goes on to say the letter was written with honourable intentions but he realizes it wasn’t appropriate, as a minister of the Crown, to write the Tax Court for someone he knew.
“I take full responsibility for my actions and the consequences they have brought,” he said.
Heritage Minister James Moore will also carry the portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs minister until Harper names a replacement.
“I would like to thank Mr. Duncan for his many contributions as minister and for his service to the people of Canada,” said Harper.
There was little sympathy over Duncan’s resignation in Attawapiskat, the northern Ontario community that locked horns with the minister in 2011 over a housing crisis. Duncan put Attawapiskat into third party management after the issue detonated on Parliament Hill.
“I’m going to miss him,” quipped Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence after she was informed of the resignation during a community meeting on an ongoing blockade of an ice road leading to the De Beers Victor diamond mine.
“He wanted to see First Nations go down,” said Rebecca Iahtail, one of the people involved in the blockade.
The Federal Court eventually overturned the decision to impose the third party manager.
Duncan said it was an honour to serve as minister.
“I have every confidence that the government will reach its goal of improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples across our country,” said Duncan. “I pledge that I will continue to work hard on behalf of the constituents of Vancouver Island North as their elected representative in Ottawa.”
For more than a year, Duncan has been the target of criticism for his handling of First Nations issues. Last year when the Attawapiskat housing crisis was making news around the world, some media were asking whether Duncan was up to the job.
The resignation caught some by surprise.
“He’s an experienced politician, so I’m surprised he would actually step into something that he now acknowledges he shouldn’t have done,” said MP Jean Crowder, NDP Aboriginal critic.
MP Carolyn Bennett had this to say.
“This was a clear lapse in judgement and one not unlike Mr. (Jim) Flaherty’s recent lapse with the CRTC. However, I do respect the fact that, unlike Mr. Flaherty, Mr. Duncan has taken responsibility for his lapse in judgement and resigned,” she said. “It is clear that in recent months the relationship with First Nations has reached a tipping point. It is important for the PM to put a serious person in charge of this file who will have the responsibility and authority to repair the relationship by insisting upon free, prior and informed consent on all legislation and issues affecting Aboriginal peoples in Canada.”
As of late, Duncan has avoided the media as Idle No More rallies spread across the country.