Chuck Strahl faced tough questions from aboriginal leaders yesterday over his earlier remarks on treaty rights and his aggressive approach to reforming the Canadian Wheat Board.
Ovide Mercredi, the Chief of Grand Rapids First Nation and a former national grand chief, asked the minister to clarify a statement he made in the House of Commons in 1999, when he said "the Nisga'a treaty creates a separate race-based nation in the heart of British Columbia."
Mr. Strahl also told the Windsor Star in 1999, on the subject of aboriginal fishing rights, that the government has an obligation to all its citizens, not just select groups and "cannot allow the courts to draw racial boundaries through Canada's national resources."
Mr. Mercredi said he was concerned by Mr. Strahl's heavy-handed dealings with the Canadian Wheat Board, and was surprised that he ignored several of the most important issues facing natives in Canada
The negative reception brought this laughable quote from Strahl:
"There was a good exchange of ideas and we'll be back again soon," Mr. Strahl said. "Obviously, a good list of questions, but by working together, sitting down together, that's how you solve them. I was here today to start that and we'll continue as we go ahead."
Clearly, Strahl demonstrated this pragmatic, working together approach, as it related to the CWB. Cough. Given Strahl's past positions, which demonstrate some hostility to native rights, coupled with his authoritarian rule as Minister of Agriculture, this move by Harper shows every indication of blowing up in the government's face. It is a very sensitive time, and the above suggests native groups are reacting with suspicion to the new minister, which is objectively troubling. Strahl has all the attributes and pedigree to translate into a nightmare.