Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) The Honourable Marc Miller, who represents Ville-Marie, Le Sud-Ouest, and Île-des-Soeurs, was named as the new Minister of Indigenous Services in the Federal Cabinet last Wednesday, November 20. Minister Miller, who was first elected in 2015, and recently re-elected in the 2019 Federal Election, will lead the department responsible for administering and improving access to government services for Indigenous communities.
Minister Miller has recently been on the forefront of Liberal Indigenous relations, attempting to learn the Mohawk language, Kanien’kéha, and delivering the first speech in Kanien’kéha on Parliament floor. Minister Miller gave this speech to “honour the Mohawk language and pay my respects to their people.” In 2018, he became Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous-Crown Relations, responsible for Parliamentary oversight and communication. Minister Miller, who studied Political Science at the Université de Montréal and Law at McGill University, is fluent in both English and French. He has long advocated for Anglophone MPs to learn French.
During his re-election campaign, First Nations and environmental groups criticized Minister Miller’s support for the Liberal government’s purchase of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. The project has garnered significant opposition from key stakeholders due to concerns over potential negative impacts on communities which the pipeline runs through. On the campaign trail, Minister Miller remarked that the consultation process was “flawed” and “did not take into account” Indigenous stakeholders. However, Minister Miller maintained his support for the Liberal policy.
The Minister recently attended a memorial service for Indigenous veterans in Kahnawake, a First Nations reserve on the South shore of the Saint Lawrence river. Where he remarked that Canada owes an “immeasurable debt” to Indigenous veterans. In a speech delivered to the press following his swearing in, Minister Miller remarked, “We sometimes, as elected officials, want to brag about historic investments that we’ve made, but a lot of those investments are us making up for court decisions, making up for promises that we’ve broken…You have to quietly move forward and improve that relationship.”
First Nations groups remain involved in governmental disputes, including court mandated government action. The Trudeau government is currently litigating a class-action lawsuit, in which First Nations groups alleged systemic failures of the on-reserve child welfare system. The government has called for a stay from the Federal Court for a tribunal ruling which declared that reparations should be made to those affected. It will argue for the stay beginning on November 25. However, according to Justice Minister David Lametti, the government is seeking to settle out of court. As Minister of Indigenous Services, Minister Miller is now responsible for administering the various child welfare services criticized by the lawsuit.