In a move to rebuild government relations with Canadaâs indigenous communities, Justin Trudeauâs Liberal government is giving the aboriginal affairs department a brand new name.
The ministry formerly referred to as aboriginal affairs and Northern development will now be officially known as Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Trudeau appointed longtime Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett to the post on Wednesday.
Bennett told reporters the departmental name change âcame from indigenous people in this countryâ â and that she's viewing her new role as âMinister of Reconciliation.â
When asked about what was she held in her hands as she took the oaths of office, she explained she carried an eagle feather and had collected cedar from her Georgian Bay cottage, sage, and an Inukshuk and bundled the items in a MĂ©tis sash.
The Toronto MP added that Quebec Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Nation elder Claudette Commanda had also put sage in her boots to ensure she would âgo forward in a good way.â
Governor General David Johnston and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau look on as Carolyn Bennett is sworn in as the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs during ceremonies at Rideau Hall. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Bennett replaces unseated Conservative MP Bernard Valcourt as indigenous affairs minister.
The name change to indigenous affairs will restore the department's former acronym, INAC. The Conservative government changed it to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada back in 2011.
The Assembly of First Nations applauded the appointment in a press release with a nod to the Ontario MP's âdeep experienceâ in aboriginal issues.
âHer role will be key as we act to give life to First Nations rights and Treaties and ensure Canadian law and policies are consistent with those rights,â said national chief Perry Bellegarde.
Prior to her appointment, Bennett served as the Liberalâs aboriginal affairs critic, holding numerous vice-chair positions in related committees including one on violence against indigenous women.
The organization also praised the semantic shift in the departmentâs name to the âpreferred and acceptedâ term of indigenous.
'Good day for reconciliation'
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair shared his own positive sentiments about both Bennettâs appointment and the departmentâs new name.
âItâs a good day for reconciliation in Canada because I think this will be something high on her agenda,â he said.
Bennett, an 18-year MP and former cabinet minister under Paul Martin, will have to hit the ground running in her new role to satisfy election promises Trudeau made to First Nations, Inuit and MĂ©tis while on the campaign trail.
As one of its major campaign planks, the Liberals pledged to signify renewed indigenous relations by âimmediatelyâ initiating an inquiry into the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
According to a report released by the RCMP last year, the number of women who were reported missing or murdered between 1980 and 2012 edges close to 1,200.
Bennett said the new government canât âjust step out and announce an inquiryâ and is looking to set up pre-consultations right away.
Stephen Harper dismissed repeated calls for an inquiry last year, calling the issue a crime and not a âsociological phenomenon.â Trudeau lambasted the then-prime minister for being âout of touchâ with Canadians.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly cited Stephen Harper's reference to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women as a âsociological phenomenon.â This version has been updated.