FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WHITEHORSE, YK (July 17, 2013) – The Cabinet shuffle announced yesterday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper resulted in eight Members of Parliament promoted to the federal Cabinet, with Bernard Valcourt remaining as the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
For the First Nations in Ontario, this Cabinet shuffle created barely a ripple. For our leaders and the people they serve, it is not who is in what position in the federal Cabinet that matters — it is about a change in approach brought about by a willingness to respect the sacred Treaties and the hard-won rights of Indigenous peoples in this country that is important.
For far too long, Indigenous peoples in this country have lived in abject poverty while billions in resources have been extracted from their traditional lands. The Indian Act has dictated how we live and inadequate and restrictive annual funding arrangements have forced First Nations to be the administrators of their own poverty.
The federal government’s economic agenda is heavily predicated on resource development projects to feed a resource hungry world. As many have pointed out the majority of these projects cross or are on the traditional territory of First Nations. There is enormous potential for all to benefit.
First Nations have inherent rights that existed before the first settler set foot on this land. This truth has been reinforced by numerous victories in Canadian courts which stated clearly that governments are obligated to consult with and accommodate the views of the First Nation landowners when planning a resource development project on their lands. The potential revenue from planned resource development projects in Canada is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions but the benefits of this potential will only be realized through building equitable partnerships with the First Nations involved.
Prime Minister Harper has the opportunity to build a legacy by changing the First Nations-Government relationship in a positive way. At this point in time we are not optimistic. We have been barraged with federal legislation that we have opposed yet the federal government continues in its attempt to forcefully impose on us. Yet on those priorities that we have repeatedly advocated be addressed, such as the desperate housing shortage, investment to address the funding shortfall in what is provided to First Nation learners in comparison to their non-First Nation peers, and the under-funding of First Nation police services continue to be ignored.
These are bread and butter issues in our communities. The lack of action on the part of the federal government signals that they do not care about the health and safety of our people. Our police services are struggling and have reached a crisis point and yet they do their best to provide the services required in our communities. The First Nations in Ontario call on the new federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Steven Blaney, to work with First Nations to immediately address the policing funding crisis.
First Nations want a change for the better. At this time we do not have partners at the table that are committed and acting in good faith to make the required changes in the First Nation and Government relationship and until we do we will remain mired in the status quo, regardless of new faces at the Cabinet table.
The Chiefs of Ontario is a political 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.
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Categorised in: Provincial