Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Wiindawtegowinini Day.

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Wiindawtegowinini Day.

TORONTO (Sept 18, 2015) — Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day released the following statement today regarding yesterday’s Federal Leaders debate:

“Making concrete commitments to fully involve First Nations in Canada’s energy and resource economy should have been a front-and-centre concern in last night’s federal leader’s economic debate.

Sadly, as Jeffrey Simpson notes in his Globe and Mail column today, none of the leaders addressed the impoverishment that holds both us and the Canadian economy back. None of the leaders offered any visions or solutions for including the original Peoples in Canada’s shared future prosperity.

Instead of ripping and shipping our raw resources, why not acknowledge that First Nations can take charge of responsible development and value-added refining and manufacturing here in Canada? The fact remains that Canada has lost at least two decades of opportunity to fully involve First Nations in the economy. Canada’s economy is broken and can only be fixed by fully engaging with First Nations in Canada.

The groundbreaking 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) predicted that First Nations would be major contributors to Canada’s economy within 20 years if we received a significant land base on which to generate our own economies.

Rather, successive federal governments have failed to make those significant investments in land and resources. Instead, billions of our dollars have been wasted in perpetuating poverty for our Peoples.

Imagine for a moment; if First Nations here in Ontario had complete control of our traditional lands – there is no doubt we would not be suffering abject poverty. We could be the proponents and partners in major energy and resource developments. We could ensure that these projects are as environmentally sustainable as possible, and monitored for healthy ecological co-existence.

Instead, we have crumbling infrastructure in our communities and no significant energy and transportation infrastructure to make major resource projects viable.

In a debate on the future of Canada’s economy, we need real leadership – and a bureaucracy – with the vision and fortitude to see the value of having First Nation investment in Canada’s broken economy.

Instead of this current government boasting about a small $1.9 billion surplus achieved through federal service cuts and lay-offs, there could easily have been a $19 billion surplus achieved through the revenues generated by First Nation resource development companies.

The time to fairly and fully involve our Peoples in Canada’s economy must begin with the next government. We cannot afford to lose yet another generation to poverty, suicide, missing and murdered women, and children in care.

The time to be proactive, the time to invest in First Nations is now. We want what all Canadians want – safe, prosperous, happy lives for ourselves and our children.

We want a government that will be courageous and intelligent enough to with work us; securing our rightful place.”