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Conservative MP John Duncan is sworn in as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development at Rideau Hall on Aug. 6, 2010.


Seventeen years after the Reform Party wave of 1993 brought John Duncan to Parliament Hill, the Vancouver Island MP is being rewarded for his work on aboriginal issues with a seat at the cabinet table.

Mr. Duncan is now Minister of Indian Affairs, replacing fellow British Columbia Conservative Chuck Strahl, who moves to Transport. Mr. Strahl's three-year run in the sensitive portfolio received some positive reviews Friday from aboriginal organizations.

In a statement, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, who is also from Vancouver Island, thanked Mr. Strahl for his "hard work and dedication," and welcomed his replacement.

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"I am well acquainted with Mr. Duncan. We have worked together in the past and I look forward to working with him in his new role," Mr. Atleo said.

Mr. Duncan, a soft-spoken veteran of the backbenches, was narrowly defeated by the NDP in the 2006 election. After winning back Vancouver Island North in 2008, he was appointed parliamentary secretary for Indian Affairs.

He is a long-time advocate of encouraging private home ownership on native reserves. The concept is being debated in aboriginal circles following publication of a recent book called Beyond the Indian Act, co-authored by academics Tom Flanagan, André Le Dressay and Christopher Alcantara, and with a foreword by First Nations Tax Commission head Manny Jules. The authors urge Ottawa to bring in a First Nations Property Ownership Act, allowing bands to opt out of the Indian Act's land system.

Advocates see private home ownership as the key to investment and wealth in native communities. Critics fear it will undermine treaties and allow reserve lands to be sold off to outsiders.

NDP First Nations critic Jean Crowder, who represents the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Cowichan, said she's disappointed the Prime Minister did not appoint a more high-profile person to the job.

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Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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