02/16/2012 08:15 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Treaty commissioner says tenure enjoyable in last speech to Saskatchewan group

SASKATOON - Saskatchewan's treaty commissioner is calling it quits.

Bill McKnight was appointed in 2007 and his mandate ends in March.

He spoke Thursday to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations legislative assembly at the Whitecap Dakota First Nation for the final time.

McKnight says he's enjoyed his tenure, adding he knows some chiefs want the Office of the Treaty Commissioner to be more forceful in the area of treaty implementation.

He says mechanisms such as the treaty land entitlement process, which enables bands to claim land outside the Indian Act, is one way this might be accomplished.

McKnight also says chiefs should hurry to find a replacement because it takes time to get settled in the role.

The mandate of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner includes facilitating a common understanding between the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Canada on a number of Treaty issues including child welfare, education, housing, health, harvesting, lands and resources.

McKnight was born in Elrose, Sask., and was federal minister of Agriculture, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Western Diversification, National Defence, Energy, Mines and Resources, and Labour as a Conservative MP from 1979 to 1993.

He also served as the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. He is Honourary Chief of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.

(MBC, The Canadian Press)