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Federal department changes name to be more politically correct

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 27, 2011

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada has a new name -Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada - that is getting mixed reviews.

"What's in a name?" said Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington.

"It's an improvement, I think, from where it was, but I don't think it was done with any consultation with anyone else."

The change, which took effect June 13, doesn't change the department's mandate or responsibilities, but instead reflects the new dynamics between the Canadian government and aboriginal people.

"The change ... better reflects the scope of the minister's responsibilities with respect to First Nations, Inuit and Metis," said Genevieve Guibert, a spokesperson for the department.

"This title is more up to date and inclusive of the minister's responsibilities and is consistent with the government of Canada's focus on moving forward in its relationship with aboriginal peoples."

Janet Kanayok, mayor of Ulukhaktok, agrees with the decision.

"I think it's a good change. It's more reflective of how it is now instead of how it used to be," she said, adding that it wouldn't change the hamlet's day-to-day activities.

Arthur Tobac, chief of Fort Good Hope, said replacing 'Indian' with 'aboriginal' was long overdue.

"For me, it works. It just recognizes and gives proper respect."

He said the only difficulty it could present is getting used to the new abbreviation, AANDC, which is a bit less catchy than INAC.

"Everybody knows INAC," he said.

Bevington said the government should have consulted with all interested parties before choosing a name, and suggested 'Indigenous People' would have been a better option.

"(Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) is better than (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) that was completely inappropriate, but I don't think it's what would have been recommended by the First Nations, Metis and Inuit organizations."

Department officials are quick to point out the name change isn't just superficial, but also represents its expanded scope of responsibilities, which now includes the Inuit Relations Secretariat, the Office of the Federal Interlocutor and Metis and non-status Indians, Aboriginal Business Canada and Indian Residential Schools Resolution.

The name change will be phased in, for legal and logistical reasons.

For example, Minister John Duncan's title has already changed in news releases and correspondence, but it will take longer to change the department's website, signage, letterheads and forms.

Guibert said it is too early to estimate the cost of changing the department's name.

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