QUEBEC CITY, July 14 /CNW/ – First Nations within the Anishinabek Nation welcome the Government of Ontario’s plan to protect Ontario’s north and to open up economic opportunities to First Nations. However, we are greatly concerned that it will be done in isolation of important treaty relationships with Ontario First Peoples.

“We welcome any changes to the Ontario Mining Act, but change has to be done in partnership with First Nations,” says Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. “We want economic sustainability for all First Nationsand for all people in Ontario.”

Last week, Grand Council Chief Beaucage met with the Northern Development and Mines Minister Gravelle and discussed the development of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) where government and First Nations would agree on a process to jointly draft legislative changes, agree upon the development of a joint consultation strategy, and enable an engagement process with First Nations on a treaty-by-treaty basis.

“This would be the start to a comprehensive treaty-based discussion,” says Beaucage. “This is a rights-based matter and it is important for Government to work with our First Nations on a treaty-by-treaty basis.”

“Our goal is to ensure these changes enhance the treaty relationships, clarify the rules and environment for sustainable development,” added Beaucage.

The Grand Council Chief also welcomes a province-wide resource benefit sharing agreement similar to the $3 billion over 25 years Ontario Gaming and Lottery Commission agreement ratified in February. However, there is also a need to develop a resource benefit framework based on the treaties.

“We cannot continue to be lumped into one homogenous group, even as First Nations. Our people have unique relationships when it comes to treaties. The government has unique obligations when it comes to implementing the treaties.

First Nations also have unique needs and goals when it comes to resource development,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “We strongly encourage the government to come to the table and work with us on a new, modern treaty implementation framework.”

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.