By John Geddes - Friday, February 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
The most surprising thing about John Duncan’s resignation today as Aboriginal affairs minister is the lack of ambiguity about the line he crossed. This isn’t an example of a politician misunderstanding a grey area: cabinet ministers just aren’t allowed to try to influence courts.
Yet Duncan says in his letter of resignation that he “wrote a character letter to the Tax Court of Canada on behalf of an individual to whom my constituency staff was providing casework assistance.” He did this despite the fact that, according to Ottawa University law professor Adam Dodek, who happens also to be a former political aide, “it is beaten into ministers and their political staffs that they can have no contact with judges.”
By John Geddes - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 2:42 PM - 0 Comments
For a story in this week’s issue of Maclean’s, I interviewed several key figures about the ongoing controversy sparked by the “Idle No More” aboriginal protests, and the bid by the Assembly of First Nations to reassert its leadership through high-level, high-pressure talks with the federal government.
I focus on tensions over the process for settling comprehensive land claims. It’s not that this issue overshadows, say, improving education on reserves or figuring out how to give First Nations a share of resource revenues. But the claims negotiations do seem a clear point of friction, and thus a highly visible test for both the AFN’s leadership and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.
Duncan himself is, it seems to me, an inexplicably low-profile figure in all of this. After all, he’s the senior cabinet minister on the most-watched federal policy file of the past couple of months. Yet you don’t see all that much of him. Although he is far from a dynamic politician, Duncan is interesting if only for his unusually close personal links to First Nations.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 12:36 PM - 51 Comments
Dollar figures will never tell the whole dispiriting story of Attawapiskat, Ont., of course, but you’ve got to start someplace.
For the federal government, it seems to me, there’s a straightforward question that must be answered right away, and another much more difficult one that demands longer-term vision. Money is at the core of both:
Firstly, how much would it take to fix the housing crisis, in Attawapiskat and similar remote First Nations communities, if spending is properly managed for a change?
Secondly, is more needed to provide a decent life in remote reserves , or is current funding sufficient if it isn’t squandered, or is the whole notion of trying to sustain these communities a mistake?
The first question is tricky enough, but obviously the second is far more fraught.