Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee spoke at a teach-in at Canadore College on March 22.       – Photo by Monique DuBray

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee spoke at a teach-in at Canadore College on March 22. – Photo by Monique DuBray

Letter from Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Congratulations on your recent election as the new Premier of Ontario. As the Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation I am optimistic that we can find some common ground on some outstanding issues between our nation and Ontario.
Economically, Ontario has a unique place in this country because of its advanced infrastructure and central location. Unfortunately, First Nation economies do not benefit from location or infrastructure, but with your promise to build better relations, perhaps we can reverse the trend. I don’t think I have to remind you of the socio-economic realities First Nations have to live with daily, but I would like to discuss your plans for improving our relationship.
As the former Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, you are aware of some of the Anishinabek Nation’s priorities. We have discussed Resource Revenue Sharing (RRS) to help boost First Nation economies and in the past Ontario did negotiate the idea with us. Due to some principled differences that included Ontario policies our negotiations did not go further than a $30 million offer annually for five years. I would like to propose to re-enter those discussions as Ontario promised to do in 2010. Perhaps we could have a more open approach that might include something similar to what the Metis Nation of Ontario received, which was a $30 million economic stimulus package for employment and training.
Over the past few years the Anishinabek Nation has been working on details of our Economic Blueprint and we feel confident that it is another avenue for First Nation economies. We’ve presented it to Ontario in the past and we would like to increase this profile as well.
We’ve had a fairly good relationship with Ontario in the past, which you can attest to as a former Minister of Education and of Aboriginal Affairs. However, I must note that although we’ve had a lot of discussion and some movement in program areas, we have very little tangible results in bringing First Nation economies up to par with the rest of Ontario. First Nations seem to be an afterthought when budgets are rolled out while municipalities receive the bulk of infrastructure dollars. Keeping in line with your Throne Speech, the Anishinabek Nation would like to see a more constructive relationship between Ontario and First Nations.
Further to RRS and our Economic Blueprint, I think there are several options available where First Nations can make real, tangible progress in building better economies, such as the following:
NEW ENERGY
The Canadian and Ontario government both carry responsibilities, not only to the economy, but to the protection of our environment as well. With that in mind, I must remind you that the Anishinabek First Nations continue to express concerns over nuclear power and specifically, nuclear waste. On behalf of the Anishinabek Nation I request for the Ontario Government to do more in the area of ‘Clean Energy’ and less in the development of nuclear energy.
First Nations continue to explore possibilities for partnership and development in wind and solar primarily but getting from A to Z remains a challenge as Hydro One and other large corporations and/or red tape seem to reduce progress
FORESTRY
The Anishinabek Nation has been in discussions around a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Natural Resources for some time, and now that there’s a new minister it would be a shame for an already slow process to be slowed even further
NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT AND MINING
A bilateral table was discussed with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, but we have yet to see First Nation economies benefit from any discussions. With the Ring of Fire and other mining activities currently being contemplated in First Nation traditional and treaty territories, I believe a pragmatic approach and frank discussions need to proceed
ONTARIO LOTTERY AND GAMING
Many First Nations have expressed their discontent on how the OLG has handled the Ontario Limited Partnership Agreement and the fact that the percentages have decreased over the years.
As always, the Anishinabek Nation remains open to a meaningful relationship with Ontario and we hope Ontario will remain true to its promises for developing better relations with First Nations.
In the interest of developing a better relationship with mutual understanding and respect, please keep the points in my letter in mind when introducing Ontario’s budget.