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Check Against Delivery
Thank you for that kind introduction. When officials in my department told me that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples had invited me to speak at its annual general meeting, I accepted immediately. Canada's new government considers the Congress a valuable and trustworthy partner. As Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, I look forward to working with CAP to address important Aboriginal issues.
This government's strategy on Aboriginal issues is clear: collaborate closely with strong Aboriginal organizations to devise and implement effective solutions. I'm confident that the strategy will produce tangible, sustainable improvements in the lives of Aboriginal peoples for two reasons. One, the strategy focuses on specific challenges-such as inadequate housing, unsafe drinking water and on-reserve matrimonial real property. And two, the strategy will engage the very people most affected by these challenges to design and implement solutions.
I'm pleased that CAP will conduct consultations on the issues related to on-reserve matrimonial property, and I'm proud that my department will invest in this effort. The views of CAP members must inform the solution to this difficult and often painful issue.
It is in this spirit of cooperation and engagement that I address you today. My message is simple and direct: we must continue to work together and remove the barriers that impede the progress of Aboriginal peoples in this country, as well as continuing to build partnerships with provincial organizations and provinces. We must all collaborate to identify and implement effective solutions that will increase the standard of living experienced by Aboriginal peoples.
This government has made no secret of its determination to address the full range of Aboriginal issues. Its inaugural budget included substantial investments in key areas such as housing both on and off-reserve. In addition, the fact that my position encompasses both Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the role of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians demonstrates this government's commitment to foster accountability, effectiveness and coherence on Aboriginal issues. I appreciate the faith the Prime Minister has shown in me and will do my utmost to achieve lasting results.
I am well aware of the letter Prime Minister Harper wrote to CAP during the last election campaign. I share the Prime Minister's view that previous policy approaches ignored the fact that the majority of Aboriginal peoples live off reserve. And this government stands by the commitments made in that letter.
As you know, the Prime Minister is determined to promote the responsible administration of public funds and improve accountability within government. We must not allow the mismanagement of tax dollars to erode the trust of Canadians and weaken our democracy.
I recognize that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has experienced some difficulties in recent months. The issues of membership, accountability and governance are priorities for the Government in its relations with National Organizations, not just in the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. This Government needs to know who its partners are, who they represent and how they are mandated to speak for their constituency. I know that creates challenges, but I note from your agenda, and through my personal discussions with your National Chief, that this organization is prepared to confront these challenges.
To succeed, this government must partner with robust, responsible organizations that represent the interests of their constituents. I'm pleased that CAP continues to build its capacity. As the strength of CAP increases, so, too, will its effectiveness.
A quick scan of the agenda for the annual general meeting suggests to me that CAP remains focused on its core business-serving the needs of its constituents. Over the next few days, delegates will examine CAP's financial statements, discuss key issues and review recent activities-all signs of a healthy, functional organization.
I am also pleased to support CAP's efforts, and those of my officials, at outreach throughout the federal system. Through these efforts, CAP representatives will work alongside several federal departments and engage directly senior officials to develop a shared understanding of key issues and effective solutions. I encourage you to make the most of this opportunity and look forward to hearing the outcomes of this work.
This outreach is only the latest evidence of the longstanding relationship that exists between the Government of Canada and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. The Office of the Federal Interlocutor and other Government Departments will play an essential role in maintaining this partnership as we move forward together.
By negotiating contribution agreements, employee interchanges, capacity-building initiatives and other collaborative undertakings, I'm confident CAP and this government can work together for the benefit of Aboriginal peoples in this country.
Over the next few days, as delegates ponder and debate the issues, I urge everyone to find ways to strengthen the valuable and honorable partnership that exists between CAP and the Government of Canada.