TORONTO – The Council of the Federation (COF) met this week in Edmonton to focus on a number of important issues; mostly on economic matters such as NAFTA, cross-border trade and cannabis legalization. As reported in the media, the Assembly of First Nations and the constitutionally recognized national Indigenous groups declined participation in this meeting citing the limited involvement of Indigenous peoples. The COF had put forward an unacceptable proposal to the Prime Minister to limit the involvement of First Nations leadership in all federal-provincial-territorial ministers’ processes.
In regards to Indigenous groups declining participation in these meetings, Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day provided support, stating, “I agree with National Chief Perry Bellegarde’s decision to not attend the Council of the Federation meetings this week. We hope that true alliances will grow with the Crown through a strengthened Nation to Nation relationship with Canada, and government to government relationships with the Provinces, so First Nations can secure our rightful place in dialogues affecting our communities.”
An example of effective regional dialogue can be seen through the Political Accord, which was signed between Ontario and the Chiefs of Ontario on August 25th, 2015. The historic signing signaled a renewed foundation for the relationship between First Nation Leadership and the Government of Ontario. The Political Accord recognizes First Nation status under the Constitution and International Law as the First Peoples and Nations with inherent rights, title and jurisdiction.
Respectful recognition and inclusion is the type of renewal and reinvigoration that is needed on the national level; and the Chiefs of Ontario see the Political Accord as something that should be held up as a shining example of a relationship protocol that can and should be used on a national scale in order to reflect regional voices within formal dialogue. The Relationship Protocol confirms First Nations participation in policy dialogue on the principle of nothing about us, without us.
The Ontario Regional Chief and the Ontario Political Confederacy are calling on the Premier of Ontario and the COF to create a national process that is reflective of the Political Accord process in Ontario, a tangible and successful example of First Nations and a province working together on common priorities inclusive of regionally diverse dialogue.
Ontario and the Chiefs of Ontario have already defined their relationship and mutual agreement to work collaboratively for a more inclusive intergovernmental process with First Nations leadership, Canada and its Provinces to move forward on a Nation-to-Nation and Government-to-Government level for all issues of mutual interest and benefit. In fact, First Nations leadership in Ontario is willing to work with the province of Ontario to lead the way nationally; as the current model has achieved many successes and demonstrated leadership in transforming a relationship to truer partnerships rather than side or pre-meetings that show little inclusivity or relevance to shared issues like:
- Suicide/Social Emergencies
- The Opiate Crisis and other health emergencies like youth suicides across Canada in the First Nation communities
- Environment / Climate Change
- Trade i.e. (NAFTA)
- Resource Revenue Sharing
When it comes to issues of mutual interest, First Nations in Canada are not a special interest group or a minority population asking for accommodations in law or policy. First Nations have a rightful place to set national interest policy and direction.
Ontario Regional Chief Day has confirmed that, “First Nations leadership in Ontario are willing to start this dialogue and provide input for the immediate collaboration and building of a critical path to this process”.
Ontario Regional Chief Day and the Political Confederacy look forward to having this discussion with the Premier at their upcoming meeting on August 1st, 2017 and look forward to a more regionally focused participation and dialogue at future meetings of the COF.