ONTARIO—On Monday the Chiefs of Ontario and the Government of Ontario signed an historic Political Accord at Queen’s Park that will guide the relationship between First Nations and the province moving forward.
“This political path forward for First Nations in Ontario is the most important collective milestone in modern times. With this Accord, First Nations and Ontario have committed to strengthening a new relationship,” said Regional Chief Isadore Day. “I look forward to working with Ontario in developing a comprehensive strategy and framework that will fully utilize this Accord to advance our jurisdiction and Treaty rights on our terms.”
In June of 2014 the Chiefs in Assembly mandated a Political Confederacy to establish a task force that would develop a strategic plan to promote a new relationship with the province. The Accord was born, designed to affirm Ontario’s commitment to working within a government-to-government relationship and to further frame their joint priorities and action, a press release from the regional chief’s office states.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne signed the accord for Ontario, while Chief Day signed on behalf of the Political Confederacy and Chiefs-in-Assembly. The Accord creates a formal bilateral relationship between First Nations and the Ontario government, framed by the recognition of the treaty relationship, the press release continues.
The Accord affirms that First Nations have an inherent right to self-government and that the relationship between Ontario and the First Nations must be based upon respect for this right. The Accord also commits the premier and First Nations’ leadership to meet twice yearly in order to further advance their efforts on shared priorities.
“The signing of this Accord represents a renewal of the relationship between the First Nations and Ontario and is an important step in the ongoing revitalization of First Nations communities,” states Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. “Most of all, it is an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of peoples across the province, and to start to build a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer said, “The signed political Accord is the culmination of months of negotiation between our government and the Chiefs of Ontario. I’m proud of my ministry’s role in this historic agreement, and our government’s commitment to working together with First Nations in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration.”
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee told The Expositor that the signing of the Accord helps to elevate discussions to higher level tables and gives the opportunity for a more regional approach with more focussed discussion.
Grand Council Chief Madahbee said he and the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) would be holding its own meeting with the premier and eight or nine cabinet ministers today, Wednesday, August 26, at Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay. The UOI has been developing thier own relationship building documents with the province, which this meeting is in aid of. The Political Accord, however, complements the UOI’s work of a number of years with the province, he added.
“We’re optimistic we’ve got a premier and her cabinet that are listening and can make some progress,” Grand Council Chief Madahbee concluded.