Aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan resigns for writing letter that was “not appropriate”

Conservative MP John DuncanAboriginal affairs minister John Duncan has resigned from Cabinet.

He released this statement on Friday afternoon:

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.

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.

I take full responsibility for my actions and the consequences they have brought. It has been an honour to serve in the Cabinet and I thank the Prime Minister for placing his confidence in me on this most important file. I have every confidence that the Government will reach its goal of improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples across our country.

As explained by the Globe and Mail, finance minister Jim Flaherty and two parliamentary secretaries were chided by Mary Dawson — the ethics commissioner — last month for essentially doing the same thing as Duncan. In Flaherty's case, he wrote a letter to the CRTC on behalf of a constituent who was applying for a radio station license.

[ Related: NDP calls for investigation into ‘Jim Flaherty’s attempt to influence’ the CRTC ]

Regardless, Duncan's resignation is somewhat of a mixed blessing for the PMO. While Duncan has been a loyal senior cabinet minister, he was largely viewed as a weak one and was even rumoured to be eventually shuffled-out of cabinet.

His handling — or mishandling rather — of the Atawapiskat housing crisis in 2011 raised questions about his ministerial competency from both the political and pundit class.

Veteran CTV reporter Robert Fife once called him "the weakest Indian Affairs minister in recent memory."

It also became clear, during the recent Idle No More protests, that First Nations' chiefs didn't show him very much respect either.

A policy adviser for the Stó:lō Tribal Council , however, believes that any First Nations' animosity towards Duncan had more to do with the position rather than the man.

"The Minister of Indian Affairs — it's seen as an outdated post as much as the Indian Act is seen as an antiquated piece of legislation. A hold over from a completely different era. So anyone in his role — they wouldn't be popular," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"I know that he had established some good working relationships with some First Nation communities."

Duncan will continue to sit as an MP in the Conservative caucus. Heritage minister James Moore will temporarily takeover the Aboriginal Affairs file.

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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