Indian affairs minister looking forward to more work with ‘willing partners’

Vancouver Island North Conservative MP John Duncan has retained his post as minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development, part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new federal ministry that promises greater security and stability for Canadians.

JOHN DUNCAN is sworn in for the second time as minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development.

Vancouver Island North Conservative MP John Duncan has retained his post as minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development, part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new federal ministry that promises greater security and stability for Canadians.

Duncan was first elected to the House of Commons in 1993 and re-elected five times thereafter. He was appointed Indian affairs minister last year.

Duncan said the Tories have worked with “willing partners” at the provincial and territorial level, and with aboriginal communities, signing tripartite arrangements on education, childhood family services and income assistance reform.

“We’ll continue to do that,” he said from his Ottawa office. “There’s a lot of basic infrastructure needs across the country. We’re looking at more innovative ways to try and finance some of this stuff instead of everything being on a cash basis. There’s specific and comprehensive land claims and treaty negotiations that are going on across the country.”

Expediting treaties is part of the ministry’s reconciliation agenda.

Duncan said K’ómoks First Nation negotiations have “gone well” to date.

“We’ve now had our federal election. The K’ómoks First Nation has had their election. Those were two important hurdles to go forward with.”

He said there are specific ways to expedite treaties.

“Part of it is just on the basis of personalities,” Duncan said. “We have one First Nation in the riding, Homalco, that has gone from almost a standstill to near the front of the pack in terms of advancing their treaty negotiations.

“There’s been enough progress and enough examples of settled treaties in the province. If you can take the common elements out rather than reinventing the wheel every time, then we should be able to move more quickly. Some of the British Columbia First Nations formed a common table to try and achieve exactly that, and we’ve been working with them.”

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On behalf of Rona Ambrose, Minister for Status of Women, Duncan has announced federal support for a project that addresses financial and growth opportunities for aboriginal women business owners in the Comox Valley.

“This funding of nearly $260,000 over two years to the Wachiay Friendship Centre Society aimed at encouraging female entrepreneurs will have a lasting effect on the lives of women and girls in the Comox Valley,” Duncan said. “Friendship centres are  obviously very important for the aboriginal community.”

Thursday’s announcement is part of an initiative dubbed Blueprint Project, a series of seven project models that address priority areas such as ending violence against women, and improving women’s economic security and prosperity.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com