Newly appointed Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree says a shared history of colonialism will help in his new role.

Anandasangaree was in Saskatchewan this week in his first major trip as Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister. One of his stops was to celebrate the self-governance treaty for Whitecap Dakota First Nation and the other was to announce several historic settlements for First Nations in the province.

During one of his stops Anandasangaree addressed his new role.

“Many of you may be rightfully wondering what is this brown Indian guy from across the other side of the ocean doing carrying this file,” he said. “I do feel I need to respond to that because I know many of you may be feeling it and not asking it because you are polite.”

Anandasangaree then spoke on his experience of colonialism growing up in India and how many of his people lost their lives defending their language and culture.

“We are a colonized people, not a treaty people, where I came from,” he said. “Which means every aspect of colonialism, albeit less pronounced than in Canada, was felt. So I am here in this role with a deep sense of commitment.”

The Crown-Indigenous Relations minister than spoke on the Liberal Government’s work toward reconciliation since they took power in 2015.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, it is going to take time.”

Deeply flawed” – Anandasangaree comments on the Indian Act

During a press conference Anandasangaree was asked about the Indian Act and the Liberal Government’s commitment to move Canada past that legislation.

“The Indian Act is deeply flawed and there are many challenges with it,” he said.

Anandasangaree says there are some communities that have the means to move past the Indian Act – pointing to the self-governance treaty with Whitecap Dakota First Nation.

He also says the government wants to support First Nations who may be able to partially move on from the Indian Act or even those nations who fully rely on the legislation.

“Ultimately this is about self-determination”, he said. “It is to get to the core of what we feel, and what Indigenous people have told us for many years, is that self-determination is the core value of their relationship with Canada.”

Anandasangaree’s first trip through Saskatchewan seemed to be met favourably by the many chiefs who met with him during the week.