Appointment comes at 'a critical point in the history of Inuit relationships.'

Strahl in, Prentice out at Indian Affairs


Inuit, First Nations and Métis can look forward to working with a new minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development following Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet shuffle earlier this week.

Chuck Strahl replaces Jim Prentice, who was moved to the industry department. The shuffle prompted aboriginal leaders to praise Prentice for his support of the final settlement for former residential school students.

The 50-year-old Strahl comes to his new portfolio with more experience in forestry and agriculture than northern or aboriginal affairs. Strahl represents New Westminster, B.C., in the House of Commons and worked for a private logging and road building company before being elected to Parliament in 1993.

In 2001, Strahl led a group of Canadian Alliance MPs opposed to the leadership of Stockwell Day. Strahl's efforts were successful, and Harper replaced Day.

In August 2005, Strahl revealed he had been diagnosed with inoperable, terminal lung cancer as the result of exposure to cancer-causing asbestos fibres as a young man.

However, after treatment, Strahl successfully ran in the 2006 election and became minister of agriculture in the Conservatives' first cabinet.

In an Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami news release, ITK president Mary Simon said she welcomed Strahl. She said Strahl's appointment comes at "a critical point in the history of Inuit relationships with this government," which still has several unresolved issues to deal with.

In the short term, the changeover at DIAND means Strahl, not Prentice, should be representing the federal government official in Kuujjuaq as its senior official at next week's Katimajiit meeting on Nunavik's social and economic development.

However, there was no confirmation before Nunatsiaq News press time whether Strahl would be in Kuujjuaq.

The shuffle could also postpone the official signing of the agreement-in-principle for the Nunavik regional government, which had earlier been planned for next Thursday.

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