BAIE-COMEAU — André Maltais, who has notably worked long years for the recognition and promotion of Canada’s First Nations, has recently been awarded the Order of Canada. Mr. Maltese recalled some great moments of his career with The Sun.
“I thought it was a joke, I was even very surprised,” said the recipient. “My first thought went to the North Shore. It is because of her that I received this honor, this is not a personal matter.”
Born in 1948 to Sept-Îles, and André Maltais makes his entrance on the public stage in 1979, when he was elected member of parliament for Manicouagan, under the banner of the liberal Party of Canada. He will occupy this function until 1984.
“This time, it was a really particular context with the closure of ITT in Port-Cartier, the merger between Baie-Comeau and Hauterive, an unemployment rate around 20 %. People put so much hope in us, he had to take it bite by bite. Personally, I’ve found that politics is bigger than us,” he stressed.
We remember Mr. Maltese, among others, for the creation of the national park of the Mingan Archipelago, that of the station of Radio-Canada Côte-Nord as well as the modernization of the nine airports of Nunavuk. It is also the one who convinced prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to recognize the rights of aboriginal peoples in the nascent Charter of rights and freedoms.
“When you manage to convince people like Trudeau’s father, it is rewarding. I was not of this world. I was in the young thirties, and I’m not de Brébeuf”, he started laughing. “When Mr. Trudeau tells us finally yes, it’s been really fun.”
The recognition of First Nations has been the main fight of André Maltais, still far from the retirement age of 70 years. For example, he was parliamentary secretary to the ministry of indian and Northern Affairs, as chief federal negotiator in the folder Atikamekw-Montagnais and deputy minister for aboriginal Affairs in Quebec.
From his young age, Andre Maltais, was attending the Innu from Sept-Îles. It is at the age of 20 years that he understood the humiliation that they could live. “In 1968, I had closed the doors of a tavern in Quebec city because I was with an Indian, as I was told,” remembered the author in 2013 of the book The awakening of the eagle, who made a comeback on the relations between the First Nations and their colonizers.
“Once I got to Ottawa, I am well aware that these people [First Nations] does not exist on the legal level. It is on this point that I had an interesting role to play,” recalls the trader of career, which indicates that “my biggest frustration as a deputy minister in Quebec, it is not to be able to create an order of government for them”.
In closing, André Maltais obliged to dissociate themselves from the cynicism that surrounds the political commitment. “It is not true that the policy may not change things,” he concluded.