Province and Chiefs of Ontario Reaffirm Commitment to Work Together Toward Reconciliation
Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day released this joint statement following the fourth annual Chiefs of Ontario Leaders in the Legislature event in Toronto:
"For the past three days, over 25 Provincial Cabinet Members and First Nations Chiefs from across the province met to discuss our shared interests, the challenges we face and the collaborative steps we are taking to move forward on our journey toward reconciliation.
Generations of oppression and abuse have created systemic inequality for First Nations people. These are complicated, multifaceted issues -- but by actively coming together to create more opportunities and more fairness, we are addressing them.
Events like the Leaders in the Legislature are part of an ongoing process to rebuild -- or, in some cases, build for the very first time -- strong partnerships based on mutual trust, respect and fairness between Ontario and First Nations communities.
The productive conversations at this year's forum surrounded three overarching themes: safe communities and cannabis; community well-being and lifelong learning; and environment, energy and infrastructure.
We discussed Ontario's plans for the largest policing transformation in a generation, focusing on community safety and well-being. This includes the opportunity for First Nations communities to establish their own police service boards under provincial policing legislation, better enabling the provision of culturally responsive practices for the communities they serve.
Acknowledging the unique challenges for Ontario and the Chiefs of Ontario, we shared our thoughts on the safe and sensible regulation of the use and distribution of recreational cannabis. This is an issue that is closely related to building healthy and safe communities, whether it's addressing concerns about health impacts on communities or exploring how First Nations communities could participate in retail and distribution. We agreed that all parties, including Canada, have much more work to do with First Nations immediately and into the future, engaging and consulting First Nations on implementation of cannabis programing.
And we talked about our plans to develop resources responsibly and equitably as partners. We share the desire to develop projects together in a way that uses traditional knowledge to protect land and water for future generations, and to make progress on negotiating resource revenue sharing arrangements for forestry and mining. We only have to think about the impacts that historical mercury discharges into the English and Wabigoon Rivers have had on Indigenous communities to understand why we need to be vigilant about protecting the environment and working in partnership with First Nations.
As an example of Leaders in the Legislature activities, the presentation of a four corner table process highlighted the value in bringing together all four orders of government -- First Nations, municipalities, the province and the federal government -- in order to promote community safety and eliminate the racism and violence encountered by far too many First Nations people in urban areas. In the weeks and months to come, there will be more four corner table national engagements, with a report to be presented in July 2018 at the Assembly of First Nations' Annual General Assembly in Vancouver.
The work to rebuild trust and community is ongoing and sometimes difficult, but the progress we are making is real. We still have so much to do in order to bring about real and lasting change for this generation, our children and our grandchildren. Today, we recommit to taking the necessary steps to strengthen our government-to-government relationship and, most importantly, create more fairness and opportunities for First Nations communities across Ontario."