US & Canada

Trudeau splits indigenous affairs portfolio in Cabinet reshuffle

(L-R) Carolyn Bennett, Jane Philpott, Kent Hehr, Carla Qualtrough, Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Seamus O'Reagan take part in a cabinet shuffle Image copyright Reuters
Image caption New federal cabinet ministers attend their swearing-in ceremony

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has overhauled the indigenous affairs portfolio as part of a six-person Cabinet reshuffle.

The restructuring will see the file split between two senior ministers.

Former Health Minister Jane Philpott and former Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett are now sharing responsibility for the portfolio.

Mr Trudeau came to power promising a renewed relationship with indigenous Canadians.

Ms Bennett has a new role as minister dedicated to Crown-indigenous relations. Ms Philpott has been named minister of indigenous services.

Splitting the portfolio is the first step towards a major restructuring of the federal department of indigenous and northern affairs - a focal point in the government's relationship with indigenous people.

"We're changing the very institution that was established to implement colonial laws," Mr Trudeau said on Monday after the new ministers were sworn-in.

The Trudeau government expects that splitting the portfolio will accelerate a move towards self-determination and will help the delivery of services to First Nations, Inuit and Metis Canadians.

Members of Canada's indigenous community have expressed growing frustration that the prime minister's intentions towards reconciliation have not resulted in concrete action.

Mr Trudeau has promised to end boil-water advisories on dozens of First Nations reserves within five years. His government is also facing calls to improve mental health services for indigenous Canadians.

This latest step received praise from the Assembly of First Nations.

In a statement, National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the changes "significant steps toward restoring and revitalising the nation-to-nation relationship between First Nations and the Crown".

There are more than 1.2 million indigenous people in Canada.

Monday's reshuffle was sparked when former public services minister Judy Foote resigned last week for family health reasons.

Former Minister of Sport Carla Qualtrough has replaced Ms Foote at public services.

Kent Hehr has moved from veterans affairs to take over as minister of sport.

Two rookies have also been promoted to cabinet.

Liberal MP Ginette Petitpas Taylor has taken over as federal health minister and Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan has been given the veterans affairs portfolio.

Mr Trudeau last reshuffled his cabinet in January in preparation for the Trump presidency.

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