Statement to the Legislature by the Honourable Brad Duguid Minister of Aboriginal Affairs in Recognition of the Two Year Anniversary of the Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry
Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario, Check Against Delivery
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today as the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, two years after Justice Sidney Linden released the Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry.
The Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry is very significant, Mr. Speaker. It's the road map for the government to work in partnership with First Nations and Métis in order to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal communities in Ontario.
The creation of a stand-alone Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs was one of the key recommendations of Justice Linden's report. It is because of this report and the efforts of various individuals that I stand before you in this capacity.
Today, Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate our progress in moving forward on the recommendations outlined in the Report we must also reflect on the tragic loss of Anthony O'Brien (Dudley) George at Ipperwash Provincial Park in September of 1995. An unfortunate tragedy that we cannot undo. A loss, however, that has kindled a new relationship between Aboriginal people and our government based on respect and reconciliation.
I would also like to recognize the perseverance and achievements of a variety of people who were involved at the time of Dudley's death and since -
- Dudley's brother Maynard Sam George and his wife Veronica,
- the Honourable Gerry Phillips,
- MPP Maria Van Bommel,
- Chief Liz Cloud of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation
- former National Chief Ovide Mercredi,
- former Ontario Regional Chief Gord Peters,
- former Kettle and Stony Point First Nation Chief Tom Bresette,
- Justice Sidney Linden,
- the community of Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point and the members at Aazhoodena.
- and the municipality of Lambton Shores.
I applaud the efforts of these individuals and others - the list is simply far too long to acknowledge everyone.
Mr. Speaker, last week I experienced the honour and privilege of signing the historic Ipperwash Park Transfer Process Agreement with Chief Liz Cloud and the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point and the residents of Aazhoodena. During the course of that day, two interactions with people demonstrated to me just how significant this agreement really is.
When I arrived at a traditional sunrise ceremony on the shores of Lake Huron right in Ipperwash Park, I was greeted by a respected Elder who with tears in her eyes gave me a huge hug and said, "I've waited all my life for this and I really never thought it would happen in my lifetime."
A second moment of truth came after the ceremony when I was speaking with a group of school children. A young girl leaned over to me and said, "My parents have been speaking about this land all my life. Does this mean it really is ours now?"
You cannot believe the feeling I had explaining to these school children that this land will soon belong to them and their children when they have families.
The excited look on their faces as they looked around at the beautiful land their forefathers once walked - told the whole story.
But more remains to be done.
The Ipperwash Report was released on May 31, 2007 and includes 100 recommendations, spanning the responsibility of ten different ministries and the federal government.
This government has already implemented and is moving forward on a great number of Justice Linden's recommendations:
As Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, I am honoured to Co-Chair the Ipperwash Inquiry Priorities and Action Committee along with Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. This committee brings together First Nation leadership and representatives from the provincial and federal governments.
Since its establishment last Spring, the Ipperwash Priorities and Action Committee has worked to prioritize Justice Linden's recommendations in ways that best meet the needs of First Nations people and communities across Ontario.
We are also working with the Métis Nation of Ontario to implement the Report's recommendations in ways that best meet the needs of Métis people in Ontario. Through an agreement signed last November, we are working to improve the well-being of Métis children, families and communities while working to protect and promote the distinct culture, identity and heritage of Métis people.
We've established the New Relationship Fund to help First Nations and Métis more effectively engage with government and the private sector.
We've committed $30 million dollars towards reaching a Resource Benefits Sharing plan with Aboriginal communities.
As well, ministry staff have been meeting with their federal counterparts to discuss ways to improve the Ontario land claims process. My ministry has set targets of three years to remove the claims backlog and three years to process new claims.
Mr. Speaker, many of Justice Linden's recommendations involve efforts across government and I am proud of the progress our government has made.
Recent government initiatives stemming from the Report include improved mining legislation recently introduced by my colleague, Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle.
Mr. Speaker, Ontario, through the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, is the only province to specifically dedicate part of the federal Police Officers Recruitment Fund to First Nation policing.
The Ministry of the Attorney General along with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and Ministry of Community and Correctional Services, are working to provide more meaningful use of Aboriginal community justice opportunities and improved access to justice.
And I am proud to say, Mr. Speaker, that by utilizing Justice Linden's Report as our guide and by working together with First Nation and Métis people in this province, the government is making strides toward healing, reconciliation and building a better future for all Ontarians.
Mr. Speaker, we have gone from what many have described as an historical low in the relationship between the Ontario government and Aboriginal peoples and communities to what is now considered by many to be an historical highpoint.
We will continue to address historic wrongs and inequalities as we work together to close the socio-economic gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Ontario. And I look forward, Mr. Speaker, to achieving continued success together with Aboriginal partners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker