CAQ appoints former Liberal cabinet minister Geoffrey Kelley as Kahnawake negotiator

The CAQ crossed party lines to find its newest point person for negotiations with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. Geoffrey Kelley, former Indigenous Affairs minister, will take over the role later this month.

'We have had a very respectful relationship with Mr. Kelley in the past,' says Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Geoffrey Kelley was Quebec's Indigenous Affairs minister under the former Liberal government from 2014 to 2018. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Coalition Avenir Québec government crossed party lines to find its new point person for negotiations with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, appointing former Liberal minister Geoffrey Kelley to the role.

Kelley served as minister of Indigenous Affairs under former Liberal governments in 2011-12, as well as from 2014 to 2018. He has since quit provincial politics.

Kelley will begin his new role on June 14, succeeding current negotiator Florent Gagné.

The province's current Indigenous Affairs minister, Ian Lafrenière, said the goal of having a negotiator is to help foster dialogue.

"He's an ambassador for the Quebec nation. It will be dealing with the community and his role is to maintain that link between the community and myself, because as you can imagine, with the 41 communities in Quebec, it's impossible for me to maintain that link on the day-to-day basis," said Lafrenière.

Kelley said he's yet to be fully briefed on his new job, but he expects issues regarding repairs on the Mercier Bridge and the province's youth protection system will be among the priorities.

"It's a very important relationship for the Quebec government. There are all sorts of challenges ahead," Kelley told CBC News.

"When Minister Lafrenière contacted me earlier this week to see if I'd be interested, I said yes because it's a community I know fairly well and I really look forward to the opportunity of working with them again and making some progress."

On Saturday, a spokesperson for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake released a brief statement, saying "we have had a very respectful relationship with Mr. Kelley in the past."

Further comments from the MCK are expected Monday, after the council meets to discuss Kelley's appointment. 

With files from Chloe Ranaldi