John Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND), resigned on Friday February 15, citing an improper letter he had written in June 2011 to federal tax court on behalf of “an individual,” he said in a statement.
“In June of 2011 I wrote a character reference letter to the Tax Court of Canada on behalf of an individual to whom my constituency staff was providing casework assistance on a Canada Revenue Agency matter,” Duncan said in a statement posted on the AAND site on Friday afternoon. “While the letter was written with honourable intentions, I realize that it was not appropriate for me, as a Minister of the Crown, to write to the Tax Court. I have therefore offered my resignation as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to the Prime Minister, which he has accepted.”
He added, “I take full responsibility for my actions and the consequences they have brought.”
Harper wasted no time, even issuing a statement a few minutes before Duncan’s made it to the public.
“Today, I have accepted the resignation of John Duncan as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development,” Harper said in a statement. “I would like to thank Mr. Duncan for his many contributions as Minister and for his service to the people of Canada. Mr. Duncan will continue to serve as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North in the House of Commons.”
Duncan had been head of the AAND since 2010. The past year, especially the past few months, had seen much conflict and controversy in aboriginal-governmental relations. The grassroots Idle No More movement for aboriginal rights burgeoned beyond Canada’s borders starting in late 2012. And on December 11, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence began a fast that would last nearly six weeks. A year earlier she had brought attention to First Nations’ abysmal living conditions by declaring a state of emergency over housing and other ills on her remote reserve in northern Ontario. Also during his tenure Duncan presided over a controversial renaming (it was called Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, or INAC, until 2011), and other conflicts.
The Twittersphere immediately burst into speculation, the Huffington Post reported, noting among other things that he had submitted his resignation late on a Friday before a long weekend.
James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, will serve as minister until a new one is named, Harper said.