Hon. Serge Joyal:
I will stick to your portfolio, Mr. Minister. One of the foremost objectives of the government in relation to Aboriginal peoples is to establish a government-to-government or nation-to-government-to-nation relationship. It will never be possible to achieve that if the Indian Act is not abolished. You know that, up to this day, the Indian Act has held the Aboriginal peoples of Canada under odious colonial control. This was one of the key recommendations in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Your letter of mandate reads that you are called upon to support the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to “modernize our institutional structure and governance so that First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples can build capacity that supports implementation of their vision of self-determination.”
Mr. Minister, since holding this portfolio, what have you initiated to ensure we will reach the objective of abolishing the Indian Act before the end of this government?
Hon. Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services: With all due respect, senator, I would say that I — perhaps not initiated — but certainly further entrenched one very meaningful thing, namely, dissolving the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. That was done precisely to accelerate the work of moving First Nations out from under the Indian Act, and in fact to get rid of it entirely.
I am only the second Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, and I work closely alongside the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett. We continue to work, on a nation-to-nation basis, on priorities and solutions to address legacy issues such as the Indian Act. We also deal with national Indigenous organizations.
I can point to child and family services, which is addressed in Bill C-92. That was co-developed with national Indigenous organizations. It is groundbreaking, both in the way we went about developing this legislation and also the legislation itself. For the first time, this will recognize and affirm an inherent right that First Nations, Metis, and Inuit groups have over their child and family services. I very much look forward to making sure it gets passed, with this chamber’s cooperation.