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Strahl draws mixed reviews for time at Indian Affairs

Pemberton-area MP is new minister responsible for transportation and infrastructure



Chuck Strahl is gathering mixed reviews for his time as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.

Strahl, the MP for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, which includes the Pemberton Valley and the region all the way up to Lillooet, was recently shuffled from his post as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to the Transport, Infrastructure and Communities portfolio.

He will now oversee matters relating to regulation and development of transportation across Canada, as well as management of the country's airports. Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan, who previously served as Strahl's parliamentary secretary, is the new Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.

Appointed to the Indian and Northern Affairs post in August 2007, Strahl oversaw a busy time in the portfolio. He served as minister when Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology for the legacy of residential schools from the floor of the House of Commons.

He has also overseen implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which among other things has overseen the Common Experience Payment to survivors of the residential school system. Payments are a kind of restitution to survivors. Amounts have varied based on survivors' experiences.

Strahl also served as minister through the start of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, meant as a forum for survivors of the system to tell their stories and have them recorded. The commission is expected to last five years and is currently traveling the country, listening to people's stories of their time in residential school.

Today, Strahl is getting mixed reviews in the Sea to Sky Corridor, a region that is home to two major First Nations and may soon be populated by another.

Leonard Andrew, Chief Councillor of the Mount Currie Band of the Lil'wat First Nation, said in an interview that he enjoyed having an "inside track" with Strahl because he doubled as Member of Parliament for the Lil'wat's traditional territory but he feels that some work is still to be done on flooding issues - something he hoped to bring up with Strahl before he was reappointed.

Mount Currie recently saw some flooding due to a logjam on the Birkenhead River and just last weekend faced the threat of floods due to a major landslide that temporarily dammed Meager Creek and partially blocked the Lillooet River.

"I've met with him a few times but never had the occasion to meet with him on the flood issue," Andrew said. "It has been our main concern and I think it's probably coming forward now.

"Of course it's going to cost a lot of dollars, so we forwarded that to our MP and at the time he was also the minister of Indian Affairs. I think we were planning to go to Ottawa to meet with him, but now that he's not minister, that changes the scope of our plans."