Canada Must Honour the Treaties
SERPENT RIVER FN – To mark the beginning of Treaties Recognition week in Ontario, Isadore Day, CEO of Bimaadzwin, is speaking today to Grades 4-8 students at Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes in Elliot Lake. The message will be simple: Canada and First Nations must work together and that Canada must recognize that Treaties were signed in good faith to share the land and resources as equals.
“As a former Chief and Regional Chief for 15 years, I have experienced what can only be simply described as not being treated as an equal by government officials,” said Day, who is hereditary to Chiefs Wiindawtegowinini and Shingwauk, who signed the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty with pre-Confederation Canada.
“School children should know that First Nations did not choose to live in poor homes and suffer from poor health. There are far too many crises in our communities that are directly related to being hopeless and helpless because we are not treated as equals.
“The intent of the Treaties was that our Peoples were to share our wealth with the newcomers, the European settlers who came to our lands to begin new lives for themselves. Since 1982, Treaties are recognized by the Canadian Constitution, which means First Nations should be as equal in power as the provinces.
“However, the passage of the 1876 Indian Act effectively made First Nations second class citizens in their own lands. Our ancestors were placed on small reserves so that Europeans could use our lands and waters for fishing, farming, mining, and logging. Many of our children were then stolen from their families and placed in residential schools. Many suffered horrible abuse and died in those schools.
“In fact, most First Nation people in Canada have direct family members who attended residential school. My generation and the next generation will suffer the impacts of having parents and grandparents who went through the residential school system.
“Perhaps the most terrible present-day impact of residential schools and the Indian Act, is that there are more First Nation children in the child welfare system today than there were in residential schools. Far too many of our children are not only victims of bullying, but also victims of poverty and abuse.
“The most recent example of Canada’s gross injustice is the fact that the current federal government has refused a court order to pay compensation to those First Nation children who were in the child welfare system. Until this compensation is paid, and until our communities have livable homes, clean water, and good food, our children will continue to suffer.
“My final message to the school children will be that “we are all treaty people” and that means we must all insist that governments do the right thing – Honour the Treaties. Share the wealth. Bring First Nation children back to their families in communities that are happy and healthy. When these Grades 4-8 students grow up, they must be able to see that their friends and neighbours – our Peoples – have finally become their equals.”