OTTAWA - Absent from Friday's meeting between the federal government and First Nations leaders will be one of two aboriginals in Stephen Harper's cabinet: Peter Penashue.
The minister of intergovernmental affairs and former head of the Innu Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador wasn't invited to the talks.
The Prime Minister's Office says in addition to Harper, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and Treasury Board President Tony Clement will be at the meetings.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq — the other aboriginal in Harper's cabinet — will also be in attendance.
In a statement, Penashue says the specific issues of treaty implementation and economic development under discussion will be ably handled by that team.
Penashue has found himself under a cloud in recent months over irregularities in election spending, but he also has extensive experience dealing with some of the very same issues now straining federal-First Nations relations.