Sol Mamakwa, the newly-elected MPP for the Kiiwetinoong riding, is calling on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to explain why he removed reconciliation from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and relegated the ministry to a ‘part-time minister’ – Kenora Rainy-River MPP Greg Rickford.
“Why did the Ford government drop reconciliation from the mandate of the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and what is behind the decision to have the minister share his time between northern affairs, mining, energy, and, Indigenous Affairs?” said Mamakwa.
Mamakwa says that First Nations communities are concerned about the Ford government’s step backward away from reconciliation. He referred to Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler who said, “It is difficult to see how progress can continue to be made when First Nations are reduced to only how they relate to the government’s ability to access the resources within our lands.”
During the campaign, Ford famously said he would, “get on a bulldozer himself” to get the Ring of Fire underway, and he also said he would “stop talking” and, “start doing.”
“From the First Nations perspective, the only way you ‘start doing’ anything in their territories is to, ‘start talking’ to their communities,” said Mamakwa. “How does the premier propose to do this with a part-time minister?”
However, Rickford says that even though he has multiple ministries on his plate, he is more than prepared to take on the ever-growing challenge.
“First of all, all of the other province’s in the federal government combine energy and northern mines together. A former minister of northern mines and development has praised the new government for this decision. Make no mistake about it, Indigenous Affairs is a stand-alone ministry, and I am its minister. I bring decades of significant, un-matched experience living and working in Indigenous communities,” Rickford said.
Rickford noted that he has met and spoken to a variety of Chiefs and leaders in Indigenous organizations about the ministry, and that he has not heard any negative feedback. Rickford added that he feels confident about the future of Indigenous Affairs, and has a large staff to help him navigate the political landscape.
“Northern Mines and Development, and Energy, represent a number of significant opportunities for Indigenous communities across the province. These portfolios call on me to have a significant responsibility in this government. I’m pleased to have this opportunity, on behalf of northwestern Ontario, to have such a significant position in the government.”
Rickford previously held two portfolios as a federal minister – as the minister responsible for FedNor and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. He also has previous experience with Indian Affairs and Northern Development, as he was appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary to the minister in 2011.