SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION – Ontario’s “Places to Grow Act, 2005” is making its mark on northerners. As a result of this legislation, the long awaited Growth Plan for Northern Ontario was just released last week in its respective region. “First Nations have been recognized in the plan in a way that acknowledges constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights,” says Chief Isadore Day of Serpent River First Nation. “We commend the Ontario government for making this visible in the plan. We intend to bring diversity and strength to our region and share in the benefits with our neighbors. It only makes business sense.”
The plans main goal is to achieve economic sustainability and improve the Quality of Life in the lives of people in Northern Ontario. The plan will now focus on implementation that First Nations like Serpent River say ‘must include an acknowledgment of those rights in the meaningful way.’
“Long gone are the days when consulting First Nations only resulted in discussions about jobs and the protection of sacred sites,” says Day. “We’re quite clear, we support a plan that focuses on economic participation. As long as Ontario makes investments in the North and they focus on including First Nations as partners, the North will be successful. This was the Spirit and Intent of treaties that our people made with the Crown”.
Serpent River First Nation has been working on bringing business to the North through its development corporation, focusing on a number of efforts through agreements and partnerships with both government and the private sector. The First Nation is committed to brining manufacturing to the region and intends on generating employment and wealth. The First Nation’s corporation has also been actively developing industry partnerships that focus on a major rail retrofit project under the Huron Central Rail line that runs between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
Chief Day says, “Training, capital and investments in infrastructure are vital to the future of Northern Ontario creating a strong workforce. We support this approach because as First Nation governments we also recognize growing First Nation populations and the need to resolve labor pool shortages in the north.”
Other projects are in early stages for Serpent River First Nation but the Chief intends to put the Northern Growth Plan to the test by bringing forward persistent proposals to both government and the private sector that focus on meaningful investment and First Nation partnerships. He says that the return on those investments will only be achieved when the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario can mirror what was intended in the treaties; shared benefit of wealth and resources.