THUNDER BAY – Patty Hajdu says reconciliation is a process and a journey, not a destination, one that every Canadian should strive to take.
As the country’s newly named minister of Indigenous services, Hajdu said the country must do so much better as a nation to realize the reconciliation goal and make Canada inclusive and welcoming, with opportunity and prosperity within easy reach for all.
“My vision for reconciliation is that the government take new and additional steps on the path to reconciliation through equity, ensuring communities have what they need to raise healthy, happy children, and also to make sure that we fully respect each other as true nation to nations should,” Hajdu said, hours after being into her fourth cabinet portfolio in the past six years, most recently as the minister of health.
“Finally, I do believe the reconciliation journey is one all Canadians are waking up to and all Canadians are interested in and invested in pursuing.”
Hajdu said she won’t presume to rank priorities for Canada’s Indigenous people without first seeking out their input.
That said, ending all boil-water advisories is near the top of her to-do list.
“This is a huge priority and it has been for our government for a long time. In fact, since we were elected we’ve lifted over 100 boil-water advisories. There are about 44 left to do. I’ve just finished meeting with my deputy minister for the first time and I’ve reiterated this is a top priority for the government of Canada,” Hajdu said.
“I’m really looking forward to understanding those continued long-term boil-water advisories better and meeting with those individual communities to hear their perspective on how we can more quickly accelerate this work.”
Hajdu was less certain about a pending deadline to appeal a ruling that upholds a pair of human rights tribunal orders that could result in paying Indigenous children billions of dollars in compensation, a decision that could draw the ire of Indigenous leaders. Not appealing could empower the tribunal’s power.
“First let me say that ongoing litigation isn’t serving anybody,” she said. “So I’ll be working with my colleagues over the next day or so, so we can understand the next step forward. There is no question that compensation needs to be paid for the historical human rights violations.
“And also we need to be focused on making sure that Indigenous children have an excellent opportunity to succeed and that we can continue the work we’ve been doing with Indigenous communities to ensure that they have the capacity for self governance around child welfare.”
Hajdu said she’s new to the file and plans to consult with Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller, who previously held the Indigenous services file, and Justice Minister Lametti over the next day or so to chart a course forward.
Hajdu said she plans to meet with Indigenous leaders across the country to determine next steps. Child welfare, education and better mental health and substance abuse supports are all issues she expects she’ll tackle under the portfolio.