Canada and Anishinabek First Nations sign historic self-government agreement

Those taking part in the signing of the Anishinaabe Nation governance agreement on April 6 were, top left: Chief Irene Kells, Zhiibaahaasing First Nation, Chief Larry Roque, Wahnapitae First Nation, Gimaa-kwe Rhonda Williams-Lovett, Moose Deer First Nation, Chief Lloyd Myke, Magnetawan First Nation, Chief Scott McLeod, Nipissing First Nation, Marc Miller, Minister Crown-Indigenous Relations and Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe.

OTTAWA—The government of Canada is working with First Nation partners to retore respectful nation-to-nation relationships, recognize their inherent right to self-determination and support communities as they move out from under the Indian Act and transition to self-government.

The Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement is the first self-government agreement of its kind in Ontario and marks an important step away from the Indian Act for the signatory Anishinabek First Nations.

“This agreement is one for our history books,” said Irene Kells, Chief of the Zhiibaahaasing First Nation at the signing of the agreement last week. “It will help us build new relationships within our community. We need to keep Anishinaabemowin alive in order for us to connect with our surroundings and be proud of who we are.”

“Congratulations to the Anishinabek leadership and to all those who worked for so long at the negotiating table and through community outreach to bring this historic agreement to life,” said the honourable Marc Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations. “This agreement will help revitalize traditional Anishinaabe governance and renew our nation-to-nation relations with the signatory Anishinabek First Nations. We look forward to continuing to work together with Anishinabek partners on all our shared priorities, to implement their inherent right to self-determination and support their inspiring visions of a better future for their citizens.”

Achieved over 20 years of negotiation, this historic agreement will recognize Anishinabek control over governance of the law-making powers of the signatory First Nations in key areas, an Anishinabek News release explains. The First Nations will make their own decisions about how their elections will be held, who their citizens are and how their governments will operate as well as how best to protect and promote Anishinaabe language and culture. Once in effect, the parts of the Indian Act that deal with governance will no longer apply to the signatory Anishinabek First Nations.

Anishinabek Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe said, “congratulations to the First Nations signing the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement today, and I commend all of the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of those involved to reach this historic moment. The governance agreement is another instrument available to us to implement inherent jurisdictions and Anishinaabe laws in fundamental matters that are the pillars of our First Nation governments: citizenship, language, and culture, and how we select our leaders and are accountable to their citizens. The new government-to-government fiscal transfer removes these First Nations from those specific confines of the Indian Act and supports these First Nations to determine their respective priorities.”

“As our Nations strive to reassure our rightful jurisdiction over our own governance, the Anishinabek Nation governance agreement provides us with a tool to remove ourselves from sections of the Indian Act, freeing us to govern and protect our elections, language and culture, citizenship, and management and operations,” said Chief Scott McLeod of Nipissing First Nation.

On April 6, Minister Marc Miller joined Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Niganobe, Zhiibaahaasing First Nation Chief Irene Kells and several other Anishinabek Nation chiefs at a virtual ceremony to celebrate the signing of the agreement.