NORTH BAY – Leader’s Ledger – Aanni, Bozho: I’m Patrick Madahbee, the Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation. Greetings to all of you out there both on and off reserve that are citizens of the Anishinabek Nation. I acknowledge our Elders, our women, our youth, and the leadership of our communities.
We’re looking forward to this summer, and I bring greetings to you as we start the summer holidays. We are working very diligently on your behalf here at the Anishinabek Nation.
One of the key issues that we’re working on as a follow-up to our Grand Council this summer is constitutional development. It’s going to be a key area for our people who want to develop their own lawmaking authority to ensure that those communities that still need work to do on this have until next year to prepare their communities for accepting and developing constitutions in their own communities and also acknowledging and accepting the Anishinabek nation constitution.
We have a lot of work to do on many fronts. We’ve met with the regional leaders, each of our Regional Grand Chiefs to set priorities for the issues that we’re going to be working on and advocacy for our citizens both on and off reserve. These issues include resource benefit sharing issues that are going to focus primarily on economic development initiatives for our communities. We want to work on enhancing our Economic Blueprint that we’ve developed here for the Anishinabek Nation.
One of the things that is going to be really key here is to build capacity for our young people. There are going to be many opportunities that are going to arise as a result of mining development that’s going to take place in our territories: forestry developments, we’re looking at commercial fishing, and a number of other small business development activities that we want to try to push both the federal and provincial governments to support economic stimulus initiatives for our communities. So this is going to be one major focus of our Anishinabek nations, to pursue economic stimulus for our communities.
Another area that is going to be very crucial is the area of education. There are problems in education that we are going to be trying to tackle. Post-secondary funding – the cap on funding has always been an ongoing issue for many years. Special education needs and the disparity and the gap in funding between on-reserve schools and off-reserve schools continues to be a problem. We are working on curriculum issues as well. We have people in our Education Department working on development of an education strategy in concert with the Chiefs of Ontario and the Assembly of First Nations to advance education issues.
Another area that is very prevalent as I go around meeting our First Nations leadership and talking to people in our communities is health. This is one of the highest priority issues that we have in the Anishinabek nation. We have a lot of problems with non-insured benefits; we have travel issues, people that need to get medical attention are always running into problems with Medical Services Branch on travel issues. Addictions and abuse are a constant problem in our communities and suicides; we’ve had a recent conference called The Buzz on Drugs where we’re working with our youth to try put a perspective from their view on how we can tackle this high priority issue in our communities.
The other area that we’re going to be focusing on is governance issues. We have a lot of work to do in that area so we’re tackling, as I said, these issues of resource benefit sharing, health, education and economic development as key areas that we’ll be working on.
I think that there are many, many issues that we face. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us but when our people get together in unity, we’re very strong as an Anishinabek nation, as you can see in some of the successes we’ve had, like the HST. Some of the successes where you see our communities are finalizing issues like additions to reserve issues and economic stimulus that’s going on in terms of the energy sector, and some of the announcements that have been made in the forestry sector, that our First Nations are capitalizing on the resources in their territory.
So we need to do a lot more of this, and we’re looking toward hard work over the summer. So as you’re exercising yourself on the beach, or exercising, getting fit for the summer, also exercise your rights. Meegwetch. Have a good summer.
Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation