Now that the Canada 150 celebrations have concluded, all Canadians must bring a renewed focus on a nation-to- nation relationship with First Nations based upon our Treaty relationship to share the lands as equals.
To mark the second annual Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario this past November, David Zimmer, Minister of Indigenous Relations, and I released the following joint statement:
“There are more than 40 treaties, land purchases and other agreements across Ontario. Treaties are the reason Ontario, as we know it today, exists. Yet many Ontarians have not had a chance to learn about how treaties continue to shape the places we call home.
As leaders, we have worked together on numerous initiatives to improve relationships between Ontario and First Nations. We have also worked to increase public awareness of treaties between First Nations and the Crown not only as historical documents, but also for their continuing relevance today. That’s why it is so important that the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation’s first piece of Legislation was the Treaties Recognition Week Act.
This year, that week runs from Nov. 5-11, and we are proud to be working together during this second annual Treaties Recognition Week to continue to bring awareness to the important role that treaties play in the past, present and future of Ontario.
First Nation Peoples made agreements with one another long before settler governments arrived on Turtle Island – now more widely known as North America. When settlers arrived, those same First Nations helped them survive and eventually signed treaties with the Crown. Historically, treaties were signed to create mutual benefits for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Sadly, Crown governments haven’t always lived up to treaty promises.
Elevating Indigenous voices and perspectives is an important part of Treaties Recognition Week. That’s why teachers across the province are inviting Indigenous speakers into their classrooms to share a view of history young people may not have heard before. Understanding Indigenous perspectives on treaties is critical to reconciliation, and that includes understanding the areas where disagreement still exists both on how treaties were agreed to in the first place and how they are implemented today.
Although many treaties were signed over a century ago, treaty commitments are just as valid today as they were then.
This week, we will continue to work together to build a dialogue about Ontario’s treaty relationship with Indigenous peoples. A fundamental understanding of treaties is essential to addressing the challenges faced by Indigenous people – challenges that can only be solved by listening to each other and working together.”
One week later, at the 25th Annual meeting of the Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association (CAMA) in Toronto, I made these comments:
“CAMA was founded back in 1992 to assist communities in their dealings with mining companies that were entering their lands. In many cases, these companies had little contact with the Indigenous communities. It has taken a good 25 years for both government and industry to understand that First Nations have rights and jurisdiction over the lands and waters.
Over the years, CAMA has become an organization that assists communities on natural resource economic development.
It has taken 25 years for government and industry to realize that every First Nation community must benefit economically in the long term – from partnerships to procurement.
Let us never forget that Canada is celebrating 150 years as a country because our Peoples shared the lands and resources.
Our ancestors signed treaties as equal partners. The treaty partnership was meant to ensure that future generations would prosper along with all Canadians.
In 2017, a token 10% Indigenous labour force on a resource project is not enough. Ten per cent First Nation ownership of a project is not enough. Our Peoples must have meaningful involvement in order to overcome poverty and despair. We must begin now to rebuild at the community level. We must offer hope so our children no longer contemplate suicide.
Our children must be able to see a bright future where they are the masters of their own destiny. Our children must be empowered to become contributors and protectors of their families, their languages, and their cultures. Our children must be able to prepare for a future where they are the leaders of happy, healthy communities. Most importantly, a future where they control their own economies and their own destinies.”
___________________________________________________________ISADORE DAY Wiindawtegowinini, is Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief.