Duncan v. Duncan: Indian Affairs Minister eats his own words again

Honestly, I don’t even go looking for this stuff.

Once again, the federal Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan has pretty much recanted the thunderous pronouncements he made as a Reform party critic. He’s made it a habit.

In the Nov. 8 Toronto Star article, “Minister downplays despair on reserves,” Duncan was pushed for a “comment on the growing size of his ministry [from 3,300 employees in 1995 to more than 5,100 today, reports the Star] and of the Indian industry.” Apparently, Duncan did not bite, and “would not even acknowledge that such an industry exists.”

All he had to say on the matter was this:

“We have due diligence in a way that has tended to grow our personnel because it takes personnel to do all of those jobs. We have to hire specific expertise in order to deal with very special circumstances … it costs money.”

Let’s wind the clocks back, shall we? Back to 1996, when a far less diplomatic Duncan had this to say about the department he then described as “the money vacuum”:

In 1976-76 [sic] total departmental spending for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was $587 million. Today that number is $4.2 billion for about 573,000 status Indians, those registered under the Indian Act, about 2 per cent of Canada’s population.

The sadness in this profligate sinkhole of spending is the continued misery and sense of hopelessness wherein so many of our native people continue to live. Despite the spending restraint placed on all other government departments, the department of Indian affairs spending to 1998-99 will grow a cumulative 12.7 per cent compared with a decline of 24.4 per cent in other departments.

This will be the only federal department in which spending in 1998-99 will be higher than in 1994-95. … If this is working, why are 43 per cent of on-reserve natives on welfare? There are certainly some people getting bloated on the morass of spending. One place is the Hull bunker of DIAND which houses 3,400 of these bureaucrats.

Accompanying these public servants are consultants, negotiators, lawyers and advisors, all taking a piece of the $7 billion in action and keeping the myth and their club memberships alive. It is an Indian industry that has made some cling-ons very rich.

Has it been left up to me to point out the irony underlying the identity of this industry’s new captain?

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