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Harry  Swain

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Harry Swain

Harry Swain became interested in Indian affairs in an odd way. Until September 1987, he knew no more about this part of Canada’s story than any other casual newspaper reader. At the time he was a senior official in the Privy Council Office (the cabinet secretariat) dealing with economic development, which had been the focus of a career in university and government. Out of the blue he was appointed deputy minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. For the next five years, under three ministers, he was in charge of the department principally responsible for delivering on Canada’s obligations to its Indian and Inuit citizens.

They were heady times. On his watch the country went through the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional battles, the settlement of the Arctic claims and the creation of Nunavut, the treaty land agreements on the Prairies, as well as the stand-off at Oka and the beginning of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Rapid and far-reaching changes in public policy regarding Canada’s native peoples were also stimulated by the Charter, the courts, and an increasingly vocal Indian polity. Economic policy was never so engaging.

Retired and living in Victoria, Swain continues to write on public policy issues and occasionally to advise Indians and governments.

Featured Book

Oka

Oka

Harry Swain

An insider’s account of the Oka crisis and its lessons for Canada today, where Aboriginal reconciliation has become imperative.

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