We continue to actively pursue Anishinabek priorities with the federal and provincial governments. We have a great opportunity, with both levels of government sending signals they want to advance our issues. Governments will work with those groups who have comprehensive plans, with outcomes that are practical and in areas which we can move forward together. This cannot be done overnight. We have approximately 18 months to advance our issues with the current Provincial government. To do this, we need to engage our people and leaders and develop strong, disciplined positions.
On April 8, I met with Prime Minister Trudeau at a private meeting with only a few First Nations leaders attending. He wanted to know how he was doing so far. The PM said he cannot accomplish everything in one term. He said there are challenges and opportunities and he is looking for success stories and to work with groups that are ready with plans and costing. Treaty and resource issues were raised as well as citizenship, health, education and child well being.
Recently, I met with Minister Bennett and raised our Anishinabek Education System and resources needed for capital infrastructure. She spoke about being better able to work with aggregates of First Nations communities.
I, along with the Deputy Grand Chief and the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) Political Confederacy met with Premier Wynne and two Cabinet Ministers a few weeks ago. She recommitted to improving our relationship and working with us to find solutions to our issues and advance our priorities. Issues discussed with her include: youth suicide – safe talk and supports for youth, child well being jurisdiction, health and wellness, climate change, clean water and infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty, community safety, violence, Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, Ontario First Nation Limited Partnership (OFNLP), resource revenue sharing and lands, resources and environment issues.
It is time to make decisions and advance our issues and processes. We have plans and it is time to follow through. We have a choice of traction or inaction. In fact, the Anishinabek Grand Council theme will be “Traction NOT Inaction!” The Grand Council will be held in Aundeck Omni Kaning on June 7-9, 2016. We are currently planning a detailed agenda and we will be providing details regularly between now and Grand Council.
I am pleased to announce that Chippewas of Rama First Nation (Mnjikaning) will be rejoining our organization with a formal ceremony during the Assembly. We are also in talks with another First Nation in Southwest Ontario who is considering joining the UOI.
This is a key time for the Anishinabek Education System (AES). Ratification vote week is November 28 – December 2, 2016. The Restoration of Jurisdiction Department has planned Education Ratification information sessions throughout the territory. I am strongly encouraging all Anishinabek Nation citizens to become aware of this important document and attend these information sessions in their community and to engage in dialogue with their Councils to support this important initiative. We are pleased that 32 Anishinabek First Nations have submitted band council resolutions in support of the Anishinabek Education System. It is important this education agreement gets ratified. It represents over 20 years of work by our communities and this opportunity may not come again soon or ever. We need to approve it for our children. It represents their chance for a brighter more successful future. Once we ratify it we can tweak it later on. The goal of Indian control over education is over 40 years old. It’s time to make it a reality. It is time to Say Yes to AES!
We are moving on child care. Our child care agencies are well organized – most can do better than CAS. We are working hard to make it a reality. We have to do it as families – extended families. We are developing the implementation plan for the Anishinabek Nation Child Well-Being law and hope to have the Child Well-Being Law in place by April 1, 2017. The Anishinabek Nation Child Welfare Working Group has been working hard on the implementation plan since the last Grand Council. On April 20, we met with the Ministries of Child and Youth Services, Aboriginal Affairs and Attorney General to discuss the next phase – recognizing First Nation Child Well-Being jurisdiction, and we are engaged in the development of a workplan to advance this important issue.
The Supreme Court of Canada decision in Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) – Daniels was released. The Court found that Métis and Non-Status Indians are federal responsibilities under s. 91-24 of the British North America (BNA) Act, but similarly following the courts decision with the Inuit in 1939, decided there is no requirement to legislate over them, nor to provide programs and services. We shall be watching this case closely as the possibility the federal government could divide up First Nation resources to share with this group.
I have made it clear that the creation of non-status Indians was done by the federal Indian Act and if the federal government had not interfered with our governance, most of these people would have returned to First Nation communities. The Anishinabek Nation’s E-dbendaagzijig “Those who belong” draft citizenship law states that every citizen of an Anishinabek First Nation is an Anishinabek Nation citizen and that a person is entitled to be an Anishinabek Nation citizen provided that person can trace their descendancy through at least one parent to a status Indian who is registered or entitled to be registered with an Anishinabek First Nation.
During this past month we have attended Regional Chiefs meetings in three Anishinabek regions. The Northern Superior Chiefs met in Thunder Bay on April19, 20, Southeast Chiefs in Alderville on April 21 where we discussed a full range of our issues. The Lake Huron Chiefs met in Sudbury on April 29. Key issues discussed included a water/wastewater strategy to acquire more resources, community safety and the Lake Huron region strategic plan. The Southwest Chiefs will be convening their meeting in May.
We have had some organizational changes recently. Allan Dokis, the Chief Operating Officer has moved on to another opportunity. We wish Allan all of the best and wish to acknowledge his contributions to the Anishinabek Nation over the past twenty-one years. Gary Dokis will be filling the role as interim Chief Operating Officer, while Richard Powless is now filling the role as Political Advisor.
Deputy Grand Chief and I regularly attend meetings in Anishinabek communities. If you would like to schedule us for events or meetings in your community please contact Lynn Bowerman, Executive Liaison, who manages our travel schedule.
We have attended the following meetings recently:
- Numerous meetings on behalf of Anishinabek First Nations
- Ontario Political Confederacy meetings
- Anishinabek Leadership Council
- Cross cultural awareness
- Meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau
- Return of land event – Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point
- Meeting with Premier Wynne, Minister Hoskins and Minister Zimmer
- Ontario Aboriginal Firefighters Association
- Northern Superior Regional Chiefs
- Southeast Regional Chiefs
- Tri-lateral Steering Committee on Water
- Lake Huron Regional Chiefs
- Deputy Grand Chief also attended the Reconciliation and Prosperity Accord in Garden River and an MNR Cross-cultural Awareness session
Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee
Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare