After building a strong relationship with the Indian and Northern Affairs department, some in the Yukon First Nations community are wondering why Chuck Strahl was shuffled in as the new cabinet minister.
Strahl replaced Jim Prentice in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet shuffle yesterday.
Prentice had been successful in building relationships with the First Nations communities in the Yukon, said Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation Chief Eddie Skookum.
Prentice had a keen ear for northern issues and Strahl will have to prove he does too, he added.
“Just when we were getting to know the minister, and he was getting to know First Nations’ concerns, there was a shuffle,” said Skookum. “Now we’re starting from square one.”
Strahl, who moved from the Agriculture portfolio, previously sat on sat on the standing committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources and served as the opposition critic for northern economic development.
“Prentice came up here more than any other minister,” said Skookum. “What he always told us was very interesting. He wanted to get to the heart of the matter,” he said.
“Now it’s not clear what’s coming.”
Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Andy Carvill reacted with enthusiasm to the new minister.
Strahl impressed Carvill during a meeting the then-Agriculture minister had with First Nations representatives during a stop in Whitehorse last week.
“He struck me as being genuinely interested,” said Carvill in a media release. “I know this because he took lots of notes, even though his special assistant was right there with him.”
With the recent announcement about a new deep-sea port in Nunavut and the focus on northern sovereignty and development issues, Carvill is expecting headway on northern issues.
“As the federal government focuses renewed attention on the North and its peoples, it is imperative that sympathetic, skilled and smart politicians head this department,” said Carvill.
The CYFN recently made a pitch to be more involved in Yukon government-proposed climate change centre of excellence in the Yukon, and Strahl agreed First Nations should be involved, according to CYFN.
Prentice moved from Indian Affairs to the Industry portfolio.