KASHECHEWAN – Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says today’s historic signing of an Memorandum of Understanding in Kashechewan between Canada, Ontario and First Nation leadership should usher in the advancement of community development and make the north a 21st century leader in climate change adaptation and health system innovation.
“This is an excellent opportunity for a community to open up a future where they are leaders in community development, climate change innovation and adaptation systems for a changing world,” said Regional Chief Day, Chair of the AFN Chiefs Committee on Health. “The health of First Nations families and communities has long been a large barrier facing First Nations. The barriers and challenges facing First Nations can be overcome as long as we remain resilient, strong, and committed to making our communities safer and healthier places to live.”
The formal signing of the new Framework Agreement entitled ‘Together We Work for Hope’ occurred today in Kashechewan First Nation lead by Chief Leo Friday, leaders from Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Chiefs of Ontario with ministers from the federal and provincial governments.
The purpose of the Framework Agreement is to assure the citizens of Canada, and most importantly the members of Kashechewan, that Canada and Ontario are committed to working with Kashechewan Chief and Council to define an action plan to address the short, mid and long term challenges of the community. One of the key mandates of the Framework Agreement is that Canada and Ontario will work with Kashechewan First Nation to develop and recommend an action plan that promotes long-term sustainability that reflects Kashechewan First Nation’s culture, priorities, aspirations and traditional knowledge.
The tripartite Framework Agreement recognizes the challenges that the Kashechewan citizens have faced over the years and highlights their will to determine their own future. With the support of Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, Kashechewan First Nation is finally relocating.
Kashechewan has long struggled with spring flooding. There have been several partial or full evacuations of the community over the past decade, including the last couple of years when more than 1,500 people were airlifted to other Ontario cities.
Constant evacuations endured by the community in recent years hurt young people the most, because their schooling is interrupted, which community members say has contributed to high rates of depression and suicide attempts.
“This relocation is not to be taken lightly. Drastically shifting climate change has forced this move necessary to ensure the wellbeing of our people despite their deep cultural, spiritual, familial, and social connection to their territory. This will not be easy. Today, I call on all levels of government to support this community during this transitory and difficult time,” said Regional Chief Day.
“I support Chief Friday and the community of Kashechewan during this relocation and will help secure any and all commitments necessary to be a leader in addressing the issues of a changing climate.”
“On the federal level, this agreement with the government is another step in ending First Nation poverty and despair. The health and wellness of First Nations is necessary to ensure stronger, safer communities. I remain committed to promoting greater health and wellness for our people. Our children, our youth and our Elders deserve real change,” said Regional Chief Day. “With the ‘Together We Work For Hope’ agreement today we are one step closer in helping our communities move forward to securing our rightful place in Canada.”