Indigenous leaders say they are hopeful that new Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree will take inspiration from his predecessor's approach with organizations, community members and leadership.

David Pratt, the first vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said outgoing minister Marc Miller did a "exemplary job" on the file.

He said he hopes the new minister has the same motivation and desire to build meaningful relationships.

"Every portfolio shuffle is a little disappointing," said Pratt. Still, he said the group is "looking forward" to working with the new minister and moving forward on reconciliation.

"The days of prime ministers and premiers sitting together making decisions about Indigenous Peoples is over," he added.

"And we need to be included in all conversations about our rights, our lands and our children's future."

Anandasangaree is one of seven new ministers who were sworn in on Wednesday as part of a major reset to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet.

The human-rights lawyer was first elected in 2015 to represent Scarborough-Rouge Park in the Greater Toronto Area.

He served as the parliamentary secretary for a previous Crown-Indigenous relations minister from 2019 until 2021, and he sat on the House Indigenous and northern affairs committee for six years.

Indigenous leaders hope new minister @gary_srp will follow in @MarcMillerVM's footsteps. #CDNPoli #IndigenousPeoples

Miller, who has served as Crown-Indigenous relations minister since 2021, is taking on a new role as the immigration minister.

Métis National Council president Cassidy Caron echoed Pratt's comments and noted that the new minister's previous experiences mean he is already familiar with the files.

"I have full faith in the new minister," said Caron.

The NDP's critic for Crown-Indigenous relations, Lori Idlout, isn't as optimistic.

She said the government has broken "far too many promises" to Inuit, First Nations and Métis Peoples.

Idlout cited ongoing housing crises and infrastructure gaps, in addition to the government's "slow" implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.

"Another restart on the Crown-Indigenous Relations portfolio must see changes towards improvements," said Idlout.

"Minister Anandasangaree has a monumental task ahead of him."

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said it's frustrated with the change in cabinet, but "looks forward" to working with Anandasangaree on issues facing the 62 First Nations it represents.

"We hope that Minister Gary Anandasangaree can help us and be an ally ... and assist us in bringing our loved ones located in the Prairie Green Landfill and the Brady Landfill home," said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.

Miller previously committed to try and help bring home the bodies of two murdered First Nations women that are believed to be in a landfill near Winnipeg after Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said the province would not support a search.

When asked by reporters gathered outside Rideau Hall if he would keep the pressure on Manitoba, Anandasangaree said it's a heart-wrenching issue that he's been following closely.

"I will engage with those who are directly impacted, particularly the families, and ensure we have a solution they feel is appropriate," Anandasangaree said.

At the same press conference, Miller said he was saddened to leave the post, and that the relationships he's built over the years with Indigenous leaders and community members have been particularly meaningful to him.

"I trust (Anandasangaree) will be able to take this over successfully," said Miller.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said it's looking forward to working with both new and returning members to cabinet, and thanked outgoing ministers for their "dedication to Inuit wellbeing."

Max FineDay, the chief executive officer of Indigenous-led policy and government relations firm Warshield, wants to see Anandasangaree live up to his words and hit the ground running this summer — a time where many Indigenous communities hold ceremonies and gatherings.

"First Nations have their hand extended to the minister," said FineDay.

"It's my hope he reaches back and takes theirs."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2023.

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