Ontario NDP call for Minister Rickford’s removal from Indigenous Affairs
Tim Brody - Editor
Ontario’s New Democratic Party and some residential school survivors are asking for Minister Greg Rickford to be removed as Indigenous Affairs minister.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and critic for Indigenous and Treaty Relations Sol Mamakwa were joined by residential school survivors Garnet Angeconeb, Edmund Metatawabin and Darlene LaForme at a virtual press conference in calling for Rickford’s removal as minister on Nov. 5.
They say they don’t feel comfortable with Rickford taking a lead role in the search of former residential school grounds.
A Nov. 5 NDP press release states that, “Rickford signed a federal residential school Settlement Agreement on behalf of residential school Survivors represented by law firm Keshen and Major.”
Lawyer Doug Keshen was accused by some residential school survivors of mishandling their claims.
An April 25, 2017, news release issued by the Law Society of Ontario states, “The Law Society of Upper Canada today concluded the ongoing conduct case involving Kenora-area lawyer Douglas Keshen. The resolution was arrived at by mutual agreement between the Law Society and Mr. Keshen, after the Law Society reassessed its case. The Law Society Tribunal agreed and accepted the parties’ proposal.
“The conduct matter arose from complaints about service and financial issues from individuals whom Mr. Keshen represented in their applications for compensation under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.”
Former Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas went on to state in the Law Society of Ontario new release, “Our experience with this particular case exposed serious systemic issues involving the Law Society’s regulatory and hearing process in relation to Indigenous issues. We need to listen and learn from this, so that we can do better.”
While no allegations were made against Rickford, Angeconeb said, “When I hear Minister Greg Rickford talking about reconciliation in the aftermath of residential schools, it opens painful wounds.” Angeconeb went on to state, “People felt hurt, betrayed and taken advantage of by the Keshen and Major law firm and Mr. Rickford was a part of that machine.”
Mamakwa states in the NDP’s news release, “Some Survivors tell me they feel hurt, revictimized, confused and angry when they hear Minister Rickford speaking about reconciliation, because of the distrust that was built between First Nations people, Rickford and Keshen and Major.” Mamakwa went on to state, “If Minister Rickford continues to play a lead role in the search for our loved ones and our ancestors, there are First Nations people who will never be able to join the searches, and never feel that their families are being honoured and respected during the process.”
Provincial government spokesperson Ivana Yelich shared via email, “Minister Rickford was decades removed from the events that were complained about. Every single allegation against the member of this law firm were withdrawn or dismissed. Any inferences to the minister and these allegations are completely false.”