Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald
Check Against Delivery
AMO Annual Conference
Shaw Convention Centre, Ottawa, Ontario
Tuesday August 21, 2018
(Intro in Cree)
Ninanaskamon Lynne for the introduction. It’s an honour to speak to you today. Ninanaskamon means: I am grateful/I am thankful/I thank you
I want to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation. I honour your families, relatives and ancestors and say miigwetch for welcoming us to your territory today.
I’m here to speak about building relationships and partnerships that can move us all towards prosperity, economic self-sufficiency and healthy vibrant communities. Like many of you, I have a vision of happy, healthy, children who are surrounded by the love and care of their immediate and extended families, living in safe vibrant communities that are grounded in well-being, culture and language.
First, I’ll give you an overview of the Inherent and Treaty Rights of our people and then touch on the socio-economic challenges faced by many our First Nation communities. In this talk, I want to offer solutions on how we can improve and build more productive relationships. And finally, I’ll talk about the path forward based on the truth and reconciliation process.
The Chiefs of Ontario has been proud to be a part AMO’s conferences over the past few years, as First Nations share so many collective priorities with municipalities; and are constantly looking to grow and cultivate strong, positive partnerships between our many neighbouring communities.
The Chiefs of Ontario is an advocacy forum and secretariat for collective decision-making, action, an advocacy for the 133 First Nations communities located in Ontario. All of our collective priorities are grounded in our Inherent and Treaty Rights.
The basis of First Nations governance is Natural Law, or what Anishnaabe call Inokoniigawin – it is the great foundation of our nationhood. Our creation stories tell us we were placed here by the Great Spirit/God and we were given these spiritual based Natural laws to govern ourselves. Pre-contact we were sovereign and self-governing and this was first recognized in 1763 by the Crown, King George 3, through the Royal Proclamation that stated lands could not be taken up without making treaties with the various nations in Canada. Therefore treaties affirm our nationhood and jurisdiction. They are a recognition of rights and title. And they set out the terms of a relationship that will go on forever…as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow. Despite what has been taught to you, Treaties were NOT business transaction with a final bill of sale. Underlying title and rights will exist forever according to our treaties which perhaps why First Nations Peoples were and continue to be targeted by colonial policies designed to assimilate and in some cases attempt to eradicate us. So you can see that First Nations are not third party stakeholder nor are we or special interest groups…we are rights holders with not just historical documents; but with living international arrangements that affirm our sovereign relationships.
Municipalities, although not original partners to the treaties, are considered from a First Nations perspective, to be current and valuable partners and certainly benefactors of the Treaty process. Therefore, we are all treaty people, with equal responsibility to uphold these sacred relationships. And I want to go further and state that freedoms and prosperity and all good things in Ontario exist because of Treaties. The underlying spirit and intent was to share lands and resources with newcomers and we have certainly been honourable in this regard. As First Nations assert their Inherent and Treaty rights, the relationships that we build will play an important role in determining how the province of Ontario evolves. My hope is that one day, First Nations will be lifted up and respected for their foundational contributions to Ontario and Canada.
It’s important to recognize that a large percentage of the First Nations population live off-reserve in municipal centres and participate in municipal activities. Initiating and continuing dialogue with our First Nations is essential to building positive connections. I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss flare-ups of racism, prejudice and discrimination against our people in urban settings. And in some towns/cities, the results have been devastating losses of life. One of the Chiefs near Kenora, Onigaming First Nation, Chief Kathy Kishiqueb sent me a message that we require strong healthy partners to address this matter. We need to hold a collective vision of municipalities where Indigenous people are treated with kindness, dignity and respect, based on deep and abiding love and care that we have for one another.
Across Canada, municipal governments and neighbouring First Nations are developing stronger relationships. A good example of this is the Manitoulin Municipal Association and the United Chiefs and Councils of Mndoo Mnissing, sitting down together as full partners, so that they can brief Island municipalities on the details of land claim negotiations between themselves and the province, amongst other issues of mutual concern.
Aside from land claim negotiations, First Nations communities can find common ground with municipalities. For example, First Nations face unprecedented pressure and demand for investment to run our communities. At the same time we face significant barriers generating revenue, and meeting our peoples’ critical needs, resulting in the lowest of socio-economic conditions in Canada.
At the core of our social problems is intergenerational trauma associated with colonization, how many of you are parents? How many grandparents? Any great grand parents? Imagine your children being ripped from your homes. Imagine your grandchildren suffering the same fate and then if you live long enough, you see your great grandchildren take from you. This is the process that we have endured not just for three generation, but 12 generations or more. Now ask yourself, could I endure this for even three generations and come out of the process healthy, whole and strong? We all know the answer is NO. But we endure as a people. We have resiliency. We’re still here because of our connection to our lands. The earth is our mother and she holds us and heals us. While municipalities ebb and flow, have boom and bust cycles, and in some cases, get abandoned, this is not an option for our communities. We are tied to our lands forever. Our DNA is made up from the air, water, lands, plants and animals that we harvest. We can’t abandon the only thing that has saved us since time immemorial. Research by the National Aboriginal Health Organization indicates that intergenerational trauma leaves each subsequent generation with less coping skills and less resiliency, but there is hope as this can be reversed and each generation can heal and rebuild. And land based healing is a central part of that healing process.
Second, First Nations people live under one the most oppressive constructs in Canada, known as the Indian Act. To give you an idea of the nature of this act, there was a section in Indian Act that defined a person as “any individual other than an Indian” This section remained in the Indian Act until the 1950’s. While this and other blatant paternalistic sections were removed over time, the act itself remains a disempowering archaic piece of legislation that mires First Nations in red tape with a constant running back to a federal Minister for approval of minute details on governance matters.
While Municipalities can raise revenue through a tax based system, First Nations are now only at the very beginning of engaging the government of Ontario on resource revenue and benefits sharing from resources being extracted from First Nation territories. Now is the time to partner with your First Nations neighbours and begin conversations of mutually beneficial outcomes and partnerships involving resource revenue and benefits sharing.
Ontario has the second largest number of First Nations in Canada and has the second highest number of municipal services arrangements. I truly believe this speaks to our growing partnerships, and is something we can all be proud of.
You may ask yourself, “What is the best way to approach partnerships with First Nations? And how do we begin reconciliation?”
Here are my suggestions: Reach out to your First Nations neighbour. Think of it as starting a new friendship. Begin the conversation with what you have in common such as shared goals and shared economies. Ask them to partake in your community celebrations, ask if you can partake in theirs. Take the time to learn about each other. When your First Nations neighbours are struggling or dealing with tragedies, be present with them. Be a good neighbour and friend. In time, these ripple effects will be felt across our province.
The truth is that we all aspire to become dynamic and healthy communities that have sustainable growth. We need to ensure that the values of our communities are recognized across the province. This year’s AMO conference is but one way to foster partnerships, share success stories, and allow us all to take new ideas back home – on how we can better partner together.
You may be saying to yourself, “reconciliation is a lot of responsibility for one person, or one community”… and you’re right. But, I am reminded of an initiative coming out Caledonia, and its First Nation neighbour, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. In fact, Chief Ava Hill of Six Nations is here with us today.
The beginnings of this initiative was simple: One teacher, who was from both Caledonia and Six Nations, considered that some of the fallout affects from the Douglas Creek Estates land dispute came from a mutual lack of understanding for each other’s cultural differences and histories. So, she began a pen-pal program between the elementary schools in Six Nations and in Caledonia. These children wrote each other letters, explaining to each other their unique cultures, whether it was through pictures, historical clippings, or writings about what their mother had made for dinner the night before. At the end of the year, the children all got together and had a celebration, meeting their pen pals for the first time.
Caledonia and Six Nations share economies, history, land and borders. The communities play sports together, dine together celebrate together, and their administrative governments even share emergency services. This… is the first stepping-stone towards reconciliation when we look towards partnerships and mutual understanding.
In conclusion, the only way to long-term prosperity and peace is by building lasting friendships, relationships and partnerships on the principles of truth and reconciliation. First, the truth and the facts of how our people have suffered for hundreds of years under colonization. The purpose of talking about the truth is to build empathy and compassion, not induce guilt. As partners, as neighbours, as leaders and as civic-minded and community-driven professionals, the foundation of our work must be grounded in a deep and abiding love that we have and show to one another. When we operate with heart-centered leadership, we find ways to help each other, to lift each other up. Let’s begin this walk together, shoulder-to-shoulder, towards our mutual interests, in the full spirit of reconciliation in all of our communities.
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald
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. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario.
For more information, please contact: Scott Cavan, Director of Communications
E-mail: Scott.Cavan @coo.org