TIMMINS – Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day addressed the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Spring Chiefs Assembly on Wednesday.
I want to thank Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and the NAN Executive for allowing me the opportunity to address you today.
Chiefs; I must acknowledge each of you and your councils for the tireless efforts that you all offer to your families – to your People. I am so honoured to have a small part in helping the causes that mean a better life for your communities.
To say the last six months have been busy and hectic would be an understatement. In fact, the same can be said of the last six weeks, and the next six months to come. There are a lot of moving parts. And they are moving very quickly.
Your efforts and your direction – and the needs of your people are greatly represented by Grand Chief Fiddler and the NAN executive – Chiefs, I take great consideration in my responsibility; supporting them in my mandate as Ontario Regional Chief.
I want to convey to you – there is a lot of pressure; many demands; expectations; and we are certainly not short of effort – none of us are sitting idle. · The good news in all this busyness is that for the first time ever, First Nations are now beginning to be treated as partners by both the provincial and federal governments.
You can say that the stars have aligned for us. But I underscore that we must be “”EQUAL”” partners, as the Spirit and Intent of the Treaties were made.
One only have to ask how you as Chiefs feel about the North and the its future to get a sense of what your priorities are; its about your authority and the future of your Children. Government’s shouldn’t assume that “sometimes people just have to move.”
You are the North – you are defenders and caretakers of Nishinabe Aski – that is your Nationhood obligation.
Chiefs; I respect that, very much! · As a result of the Political Accord, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s mandate letters focusing on Indigenous relations, our leadership rights across the Ontario Region and the Nation has had unprecedented access to Ministers at both levels of government.
Just this past Monday, I spoke to Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray about the need to fully involve First Nations in Ontario’s Action Plan on Climate Change. I was quite clear with him about your region and your authority.
Minister Murray has pledged to work closely with us. In fact, he completely agreed that First Nations are not stakeholders, but rather equals as sovereign nations. The Minister said climate change policies in Ontario will not work unless they are co-governed along with First Nations.
The Minister has also agreed to ensure that our organizations and communities receive the proper funding in order to participate in climate change and carbon economy discussions. He went further to say that Premier Wynne is counting upon him to get to the source of collaboration with all First Nations on this issue.
This is very good news as climate change is the largest ever challenge facing our Peoples, our country, and our planet. In fact, NAN territory is at ground zero on a number of climate change fronts. You have been; and will be the hardest hit by global warming.
Just look at the shortest ever – or non-existent – winter road season. Look at the change in animal migration. Look at the threats of massive forest fires, which seem to begin earlier every year. You could say that this is the only Ring of Fire that we are guaranteed to see.
The fact that isolation and remoteness are barriers to mobility – intensifies climate change impacts in the NAN region.
At the same time, NAN territory has the second largest carbon sink in the world. The peat lands and forests absorb carbon and produce oxygen for the world. Our watersheds, the Canadian Shield and the extensive boreal forest across many of our treaty lands; this is why Ontario – and Canada — wants to work with us as partners. But are we equals?
On June 14 and 15 in Thunder Bay, there will be a Climate Change and Cap and Trade Forum. We urge everyone here to attend.
The outcomes of this Forum will feed into the Ontario First Nations Economic Forum to be held in Toronto this October.
Since last fall, the Chiefs of Ontario have pressed and presented five key areas that must be immediately addressed by the provincial and federal government:
1. Ending the First Nation health crisis, which can only be addressed by fixing the water crisis, ensuring access to health services, and fixing health benefits for First Nations;
2. Eliminating abject poverty through investments in housing, healthy affordable food, infrastructure, education and training;
3. Immediately implementing mental health and addiction services to address the youth suicide crisis, prescription drug abuse, and mental wellness;
4. Recognizing First Nation authority over land and resources, as recognized within our Treaties; and
5. Access to new technologies, such as broadband internet and green energy in order to eliminate reliance on diesel – all pointing to the issues and impacts of Climate Change. ·
Both governments have also pledged to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The federal and provincial, and territorial governments are responsible for implementing 75 of the 94 recommendations.
The 94 Calls to Action highlight five critical areas that must be improved:
1. Child welfare;
4. Justice and;
5. Language and Culture.
All five of these areas are shared responsibilities with the province of Ontario. Thankfully, we now have two very willing partners at both levels of government.
As many of you may know, the provincial and federal Ministers of Health and Indigenous Affairs have been working closely with us on the current health crises gripping far too many of our communities in northern Ontario.
I want to thank Grand Chief Fiddler for his leadership on this critical issue.
Again, this sort of tripartite co-operation – between our leaders, Ontario and Canada — is unprecedented.
We will continue to build upon this new era of reconciliation and cooperation.
In fact, I can tell you there will be a number of major announcements in the weeks to come.
The Chiefs of Ontario have also developed a Poverty Action Now discussion paper that has been tabled with both the provincial and federal governments in recent weeks.
At the AFN level, I am the national chair of the Chiefs Committee on Health. I have already met several times with Health Minister Jane Philpott. This past January, I was able to present at the Health Ministers meeting in Vancouver.
As a result of our involvement, First Nations will be fully participating in the new federal Health Accord with the provinces and territories. Discussions are now underway on the next 10-year multi-billion dollar agreement which should be announced by January 2017.
Last week, I also became co-chair of the AFN Chiefs Committee on Environment. Again, this is a very critical portfolio since Ontario has taken the lead on climate change in Canada.
“Securing Our Rightful” place in this country that is ultimately the overall goal – we must put into focus what each region wants to set as its priorities.
I extend to NAN executive – how can we continue to move our collective agenda forward? · Chiefs; I have been very pointed about the remote north – I have sometimes been questioned about division – north and south – we have distinct differences; but I know in my heart, we are not divided on our priorities – if we follow the spiritual responsibilities that we convey; we know that we are ultimately responsible to one another!!
That is my belief – Chiefs; we have no time for divisiveness – for the sake of the Children who depend on us – to ensure they have #HOPE; we must unite!
We cannot succumb to internal politics – I take full responsibility for any short-falls in the Chiefs of Ontario; but I must be clear – responsibility and blame are two different things. By responsibility I mean – I want to extend my abilities to respond to what it is you need from me as the Ontario Regional Chief – in support of Grand Chief and the Executive.
Chiefs, Grand Chief, Deputies – Unity, Strength, Success; your values are quite compelling – my question is this; how can we help. What do you need from me?
Grand Chief, how can we continue to build on our efforts together?
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day