Chief Reginald Niganobe, Mississauga #8 First Nation.

Chief Reginald Niganobe, Mississauga #8 First Nation.

MISSISSAUGA #8 – Citizens and leaders from Mississauga #8 First Nation came together on April 2 to celebrate the successful ratification of the Misswezahging Constitution on March 9, 2015. The First Nation with a member population of 1,120 is one of three Anishinabek First Nations operating under their own First Nation constitution.

The celebration, facilitated by Constitution Committee Member Roger Boyer, included a presentation on “what is next” in terms of the planning process to implement the constitution.

Chief Reginald Niganobe thanked the citizens and guests for attending and sharing this very important day.

“Now that we have passed our community constitution there is a lot we can do to move forward, including the election code, land management use and education. What does this mean and are we ready? Under the Indian Act, we never would have been ready. This is one of those steps that will help us move forward. It will be up to you, as community citizens and we as leaders to move forward together. I am requesting your participation as the community decision making process begins for many of these initiatives.”

Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee was in attendance and was honoured to take part in the celebration.

“This is truly an historical day,” said Madahbee. “The Anishinabek Nation has been working for several years to develop the Anishinabek Nation Chi-Naaknigewin and to provide support to the Anishinabek First Nations in developing their own constitutions. It is rewarding to see that three communities have passed their constitutions and that all of the effort that has gone into developing our constitutions is now showing results.”

“Your community constitution is your own system. It is a framework that’s going to help you run your community your own way, with your own standards and your own laws that will ensure progress and stability,” said Grand Council Chief.

Martin Bayer, Anishinabek Nation Governance Negotiator supported the constitution committee throughout the years with drafting Mississauga #8’s constitution.

“Continue to have meetings just like this, meet with community members, and make sure you do not put the document away. Set time aside during upcoming council meetings and familiarize yourselves with the document. You have to use it, help the citizens to better understand it and its benefits. Provide that clarity as you move forward,” Bayer advised.

“The main benefit this constitution will provide is the ability to make your own laws instead of continuing on with the imposition of other government laws. You have the authority to deal with the issues you deem necessary and prioritize those issues. You also have the ability to make decisions on where you want to be as a community in the future.”

Among other things, the Misswezahging Constitution sets out power, authority, limits and its delegation; law making process; expectations of council guided by the seven grandfather teachings; responsibilities to preserve the Anishinabek language and culture; citizens rights and freedoms; and, reasonable limits.

Bayer provided food for thought as his presentation ended, “think of how or where you would like Mississauga #8 to be in ten years, because you will have that power to enact the laws required to implement the plans necessary to control your community’s destiny. This is indeed a historical step that you have taken as a community and congratulations to you all.”

Debbie Mayer, Mississauga #8 Education Director and a member of the Education Working Group, provided a brief update about the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and the development and benefits of the Anishinabek Education System. Mayer has been involved in the development of the Anishinabek Education System and education law along with many other Anishinabek education professionals and councillors representing Anishinabek First Nations.

“Ratifying our community constitution expedites this educational process for Mississauga #8, as we learn what it takes to take back education,” Mayer said.

Grand Council Chief added, “I would like to see more First Nations pass their community constitutions. There is some real momentum with community constitutions being passed and several First Nations passing Band Council Resolutions supporting the education negotiations. It is very important that we are passing our own laws which preempt federal or provincial policy and law being imposed on us.”

For more information about the Misswezahging Constitution contact Roger Boyer, Community Planning Project Coordinator at (705) 345-1621. If your community is interested in learning more about constitution building contact Faye Sabourin, Constitution Development Coordinator at 1-877-702-5200 ext. 2316.