Toronto, ON (August 9, 2016) --- This week’s tour of the north by Premier Kathleen Wynne indicates the potential outcomes from Ontario’s new government-to-government relationship with First Nations based upon Reconciliation and the Political Accord. This is an opportunity for both First Nations and non First Nation habitants of northern Ontario to emphasize the need for greater investment in order to maintain and stimulate the resource-based economy.
“Very few Ontarians realize that about 93 per cent of Ontario’s population of 13.6 million lives on just 13 per cent of the land mass in the south. The other 87 per cent of the land – classified as Northern Ontario – has only 730,000 people — which includes an increasingly larger number of First Nations the further north you travel,” said Regional Chief Day. “I have proposed to both the provincial and the federal governments that now is the time to re-open and re-invigorate our northern economy through a program called Invest North.
“First Nations are best positioned to produce and provide renewable energy for our own sustainable communities, as well as partnering in larger projects that will feed into the provincial energy grid. We are also best positioned to combat climate change, from the James Bay lowlands to the Great Lakes basin. We must also move forward on much needed transportation infrastructure to replace winter roads and open up the North to responsible development.
“At the same time, Chiefs of Ontario and the Province must continue to ensure that the Political Accord is a living, breathing document. We must concentrate on priorities such as First Nation rights over lands and water; engagement and consultation; and resource revenue sharing. As both Ontario and Canada continue to work to include us as equal partners and secure our rightful place in this country, we are still looking for the proper investments in child care, health, housing, and skills training.
Towards that end, the Chiefs of Ontario, the province, and the federal government have been working on a series of roundtables that will culminate in the Ontario First Nation Economic Forum (OFNEF) to be held on October 12, 13, 2016, in Toronto. OFNEF will focus upon wealth creation, infrastructure investment, and resource revenue and benefits sharing.
Both First Nations and other northern Ontarians need major investments in order to stimulate and sustain the regions’ economies. It is time to stop imagining what can be done to involve First Nations. It is now time to include First Nations as equal partners. By investing in our Peoples, from socio-economic programs to major infrastructure projects, not only will we finally secure our rightful place, we will become major contributors to a revived Canadian economy.
“The Chiefs of Ontario look forward to continuing the dialogue with Premier Wynne,” added Regional Chief Day. “Most importantly, we look forward to a shared future that will honour our ancestors, provide hope for our children and build an Ontario and a Canada that each and every one of us can be proud to live in.”
The Chiefs of Ontario is an advocacy forum, and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada.