The three reporters detail the results of the Liberal Government’s recent cabinet shuffle, with an emphasis on the two new departments charged with, among other goals, ending the contentious Indian Act.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are some of the issues related to Indigenous people that the federal government is working to resolve? What is meant by the terms “racism,” “paternalism” and “colonialism”?

New Terminology:

Colonial, Indigenous, paternalistic, PMO

Materials Needed:

Globe article, Internet to access the Indian Act:

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The Liberal Government has made it a priority to redress longstanding issues involving Indigenous people, their rights and the contentious 1876 Indian Act, under which Indigenous people have been governed for more than a century. In his last cabinet shuffle, Prime Minister Trudeau reaffirmed his government’s commitment to build a new, nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and Indigenous First Nations. He split the Indigenous Affairs portfolio into two new departments, Ministry of Indigenous Services and Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.

Minister Jane Philpott, formerly Minister of Health, will oversee the Indigenous Services portfolio, which will address issues such as health care, drinking water and housing. Carolyn Bennett, who had already been Minister of Indigenous Affairs, will now be responsible for ending the Indian Act.

As the government works to meet the challenges of establishing a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous First Nations, students can benefit from a lesson about the issues involved and the kinds of changes that are being sought. As well, students are given the opportunity to reflect on their own views and feelings about Indigenous Canadians. The lesson takes the form of a full classroom discussion, followed by a short essay assignment.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Engage students in a discussion about current issues involving Indigenous people in Canada.
    • Assess their awareness of the Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG:
    • Raise the issue of conditions on reserves, water quality and suicide rates among youth (six times higher among Aboriginal youth than the general Canadian youth population).
    • Discuss the terms, “Aboriginal,” “Indian,” and “Indigenous.” Have them look up meanings for each. Ask why the terms have evolved from “Indian” to the more common, “Indigenous.” (Different First Nations have different views on names. Historically, they referred to themselves in terms of their nations: Ojibway, Inuit, and so on. “Indigenous” simply means that their existence in Canada predates any other humans).
    • Ask students what they know about the Indian Act? Take them to the link, above ( and walk them through some of the features of the Indian Act. Note how often Indigenous People are required to receive the consent of “The Minister.”
    • Discuss the term “nation.” Why would the federal government choose to move toward a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations? (Note the meaning and use of “First Nation” reflects the fact that when Europeans arrived, there were already established nations of people living in North America.)
    • If there are any Indigenous students in your class, invite them to share their experiences, if they choose to.
    • Inform students about the recent cabinet changes related to Indigenous People. Invite volunteers to read the top of the article, in which the reasons for the split portfolio are given, along with the new ministers in charge of each portfolio.
  • Assign a short (300 word) essay in which students reflect on the ways they think about Indigenous Canadians, entitled, “Reflections on my views of Indigenous People.” They are to address the following tasks and questions:
    • Think of the word, “Indian,” and describe what comes to mind. What kind of person do you see in your mind’s eye? Where does this person live? What kind of life does he or she have? What would this person’s home life be like?
    • Describe what you have heard other people say about “Indians.” How do others describe them? Do they speak respectfully or disrespectfully? Do they speak as though “Indians” are equal to themselves, superior, or inferior?
    • Describe your feelings when you are in the presence of an “Indian.”
    • Think about how you feel when you hear that an “Indian” has won an award, or started a successful company, or has been elected to office. Do you tend to feel proud or happy for the person, or do you tend to think this person must have had many advantages, such as free help, money or grants, to achieve such success?
    • Research the terms “stereotype,” “paternalistic,” and “colonialism”, as well as “racism.”
      • Review your thoughts about “Indians” to see if any of what you wrote might be interpreted as racist, paternalistic or stereotyping. How do you feel about what you have discovered? Do you question the definitions you’ve read, or do you accept them?
    • Finally, how has this exercise changed the way you think about Indigenous Canadians, if at all?
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can explain, in basic terms, some issues confronting Indigenous Canadians and the federal government’s challenges in working to alleviate them. Students will show a heightened awareness of their own attitudes toward Indigenous Canadians.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on the federal government’s progress on any of the Indigenous issues it