TORONTO – The surprise resignation of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan is being met with cynicism among some First Nations leaders, who call it a diversion as aboriginal issues gain momentum on the national stage.
Isadore Day, Chief of the Serpent River First Nation in Ontario, voiced his misgivings on Twitter Friday shortly after Duncan’s announcement.
He called the move a “shell game” and accused Ottawa of being “tactically strategic” in making Duncan its “sacrificial lamb.”
Other First Nations groups expressed shock or even sadness at Duncan’s departure and said they look forward to working with his replacement, Heritage Minister James Moore, who is temporarily taking over the portfolio.
A statement by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs also strongly urged the government to choose the next minister carefully, adding Canada’s indigenous people are “no longer willing to accept the status quo” of the Indian Act.
A spokeswoman for the group was more vocal on Twitter, however, saying Duncan’s resignation appeared to be “a diversion tactic.”
The message posted by Sheila North Wilson went on to say: “Either way, we are affecting (sic) change and I think prayers and songs we sing are helping.”
She said Saturday the comment reflected her own opinion rather than the chiefs’.
The national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples expressed sadness on Duncan’s resignation.
Betty Ann Lavallee called Duncan an honourable man who was doing his best “to improve the lives of all Aboriginal Peoples throughout Canada.”
With the prime minister having publicly committed to a new round of negotiations over treaty issues and land-claims settlements, the leadership of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is likely to take on a much higher profile in the Conservative government.
Duncan announced on Friday he was stepping down after improperly advocating to a tax court on behalf of a constituent.