First Nation leaders and province commit to move forward on key issues

TORONTO—First Nation chiefs received strong commitments to move forward on major First Nations priority issues after two days of face-to-face meetings with Ontario cabinet ministers last week.

“I am optimistic about these commitments from the Ontario government,” Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said. “We have set the bar very high with both Ontario and Canada. Our chiefs were clear; this process will only work if we meet and respect the government to government process on both sides. Now is the time to reach beyond that and create a higher level of communication to rebuild, repair and reconcile our relationship.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne addressed the chiefs in assembly on the opening day, taking questions from the chiefs in attendance and calling the leaders in legislature event a positive step forward.

There were a series of round tables that addressed key issues such as wealth creation, lands and environment, health, education, remote infrastructure, child welfare and the safety of First Nations citizens.

During the youth symposium, hosted by the Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council (OFNYPC) and attended by three ministers and over 100 spectators, youth member Jeremy Moonias from Sandy Lake said it was heartwarming to have so many people listen to their concerns. Minister Tracey MacCharles replied by committing to meet on a regular basis with the First Nation Youth Council and solidify their role in implementing the Aboriginal Child and Youth Strategy.

“It was inspiring to watch a number of women chiefs, who now number over 40 in Ontario, play a key role in the round table process. They made the round table process productive by providing solutions and helped establish a critical path towards improving the relationship,” said Chief Day. “They were key in the roundtable process and secured a number of key commitments on the acceleration of an energy table to resolve outstanding grievances and addressing the high cost of hydro for our citizens, secured an action plan on the safety of our citizens and solidified a process with Ontario towards First Nation jurisdiction over child welfare.”

“We must act upon the resolutions that have been passed at this assembly and we must continue to actively engage our provincial counterparts in order to keep the political accord front and centre,” said Chief Day. “We had most of the cabinet ministers and deputies engaged with our leadership. I believe that speaks to the province’s commitment to ensure that our political accord is a living, breathing document. There will be much work ahead of us in the months to come.”