Patty Hajdu says she is ready to continue her work after retaining the Indigenous services portfolio following a wide-ranging federal cabinet shake up.
The Thunder Bay-Superior North MP was one of just eight members of cabinet that remained with their role following a major shuffle Wednesday that saw seven ministers dropped and seven rookies promoted.
“We’re working hard on concluding the final settlement payment for children that were harmed through a discriminatory child welfare system,” Hajdu said during a conference call on Wednesday.
“We will hopefully be tabling some legislation in the fall to better protect water rights for First Nations, people in community, as well as to protect the source water in a much more fundamental way. There have been far too many incidents across the country of poisoned water, and, as we know, water is life and it is very difficult to fix once it’s so damaged.”
The federal government signed the final settlement agreement last July even though there was an agreement in principle reached back in January 2022. The deal includes $20 billion for compensation and another $20 billion to reform the First Nations child-welfare system over five years.
The full $40 billion was earmarked in the 2021 fiscal update.
Another issue Hajdu identified as a priority is working to reduce the number of boil water advisories.
“First Nations communities have struggled with access to clean water for a whole bunch of reasons over the last many years,” she said. “And although our government has lifted well over 140 boil water advisories, we still have 28 left to [tackle].”
“What communities have also said is that it has to also be fundamentally a law that the First Nations have access to clean water on in their communities with the tools they need to continue to keep the water clean and the ability to monitor and understand what’s happening with the water that feeds into their water systems. We have been working with First Nations partners across the country to get to legislation that people feel good about. We’ll hopefully be able to table [that legislation] this fall.”
Hajdu will also work alongside a new Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations as Scarborough-Rouge Park MP Gary Anandasangaree takes over for Marc Miller, who began in the post in 2021.
“A big priority for the prime minister is to stop litigating and actually negotiate settlements,” Hajdu answered, when asked about a new partner. “Marc Miller’s work will continue, and Gary will I think admirably do that work. Gary was also the parliamentary secretary to Minister [Carolyn] Bennett in early years. He’s no stranger to communities and people know him and trust him. I think that we will continue this partnership that Minister Miller and I had in helping communities resolve some of these very fundamental issues of land and of title.”
Hajdu also retains her role as minister responsible for FedNor.
“[They are] also one of the lead agencies in the Ring of Fire work that we’re hoping to be able to pursue with the province of Ontario and with the First Nations communities in that region,” Hajdu said, when asked about FedNor.
Hajdu became the minister of Indigenous services and minister responsible for FedNor in October 2021, after having been the health minister prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since being first elected in 2015, she has also held the labour and status of women portfolios.