APTN National News
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett gave her department a deadline of July 1, 2017, to deliver concrete progress on reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of the country.
Bennett set the deadline in a speech delivered during a department event introducing the new minister to the civil service held Tuesday.
July 1, 2017, will mark Canada’s 150th anniversary as a nation.
“At the core of our work is reconciliation. As our prime minister said, reconciliation is the unfinished business of Confederation. It must be central to all we do,” said Bennett, according to video of the speech released by the department. “Before July 1, 2017, we have to show we have accomplished something so we can go forward with our heads held high in a way that we can embark on the next 150 years of Canada in the way we can all feel proud.”
Department officials whooped and clapped when Bennett was introduced as their new boss.
Bennett said the department will now follow the lead of Indigenous peoples and the role of officials will be to implement solutions and changes called for by Indigenous communities.
“It is going to be a hugely exciting journey together as we go forward,” said Bennett. “To really show in our four years we have been able to really make a difference in the lives of the people who were here first and who want to work with us and help us show the way. It is the time for their leadership and for us to facilitate what it is they know needs to happen in their communities.”
Bennett told department officials they would be responsible for pushing the reconciliation agenda within the federal government.
“You should feel absolutely deputized that your job is part of this reconciliation, friend to friend, colleague to colleague, and you are now empowered to correct people and to be part of what we need to do,” said Bennett.
Bennett said just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would be bringing “sunny ways” to governing, she would also be bringing a new approach.
“I have committed to what I call, ‘Going forward in a good way.’ For all of us, going forward in a good way means we all must once again learn from first peoples, their voices and wise practices,” said Bennett. “I believe this is central to reconciliation and it is the only way we are going to get this right.”