by Chief Leo Friday
KASHECHEWAN – Next week, plans are underway for Kashechewan First Nation youth to witness another promise, signing of the implementation agreement to begin the relocation of Kashechewan community to higher grounds, agree by both parties governments of Canada Minister Seamus O’Regan and Ontario Government Minister Greg Rickford and Kashechewan First Nation Chief Leo Friday.
Dear Members of Kashechewan,
In March 2017, Kashechewan First Nation signed Together We Work for Hope, a tripartite Framework Agreement, with the Governments of Ontario and Canada. This agreement commits to the development of an action plan to support the sustainability of our community and sets the stage for relocation.
Since the signing of the Agreement, progress on relocation has been very slow and the federal government has still not fully committed the resources required to make relocation a reality. When Federal Budget 2019 was released, there was no mention of our First Nation – a sure sign that Canada was still not prepared to invest resources into the safety and sustainability of our community. Chief and Council decided that serious action was needed to draw attention to our situation; as the flood waters continue to rise, so must we.
On April 29 & 30, a delegation of 250 Kashechewan members rallied in Toronto and Ottawa to bring attention to the lack of progress to relocate our community. We drew crowds of supporters, national media attention, and finally, the ears of the provincial and federal governments. We are so proud of the young people who traveled a great distance and spoke bravely from their hearts about the effect continuous evacuations are having on them. They are to be commended.
Together, we called on Ontario and Canada to act on their commitment to support our community by expediting the relocation of Kashechewan First Nation and by developing an implementation plan with clear timelines and dedicated resources. Our calls were answered.
Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs, the Honourable Greg Rickford has proclaimed his governments commitment to work with Kashechewan First Nation and Canada to expedite the land transfer process. He has agreed to be part of an ongoing, tripartite implementation process, and has stated that we need a solid plan “To ensure that Kashechewan has a home year-round and this kind of displacement comes to an end.”
We thank Minister Rickford for meeting with us and for Ontario’s continued support during our evacuation.
Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, has agreed to a number of promising items, including securing land for an Addition to Reserve, continued work on establishing the road to the new location, planning for the infrastructure requirements and an overall detailed implementation plan that includes costing and timelines for the design and construction of the new site. The Minister has reiterated his commitment to the relocation of Kashechewan in writing and has further committed to signing an Implementation Plan next week in Toronto, along with the Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs. We thank Minister O’Regan for meeting with us, for the commitments he has made, and for attending the rally held on Parliament Hill.
The signing of the Implementation Plan will take place at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Chiefs Spring Assembly in Toronto on May 9, 2019. The Plan will outline the steps that will be taken towards relocation. It will identify funding, timelines and a commitment to regular progress reports to the leadership and the community. The workplan will contain a phased approach to community relocation beginning with Phase 1 – Road Construction.
In the next few days the Kashechewan Relocation Steering Committee will be working to finalize the details of the Implementation Plan. Provincial Minister Rickford and Federal Minister O’Regan have both provided verbal commitments to do whatever is required of their governments to assist with community relocation. We intend to hold them to their promises. We are excited by what we have heard and there is optimism that things will change.
In the meantime, it is critical that we work together to identify flood prevention and management options to keep the community safe. Immediate health and safety requirements in the community’s current location will not come at the expense of relocation.
In closing, we would like to thank those who helped us with the events and advocacy this week: Ontario Regional Chief Roseanne Archibald, NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon, MPPs Sol Mamakwa and Guy Bourgouin, MPs Charlie Angus and Jane Philpott, and all the Kashechewan members who stood with us. Together, we will make relocation a reality.
All the best,
Chief Leo Friday