The Hon. Jim Prentice, Grand Council Chief Beaucage and The Hon. Tony Clement address the media following the signing of the bilateral protocol between Canada and the Anishinabek Nation.
PARRY SOUND — The Union of Ontario Indians became the first aboriginal organization in the province to establish a bilateral relationship with the Government of Canada, the organization announced Friday.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage and Jim Prentice, minister of Indian and Northern Affairs met with an agenda that included discussions about a comprehensive approach to self-government negotiations and an Anishinabek Nation economic development strategy.
“This commitment to face-to-face discussions between the minister and the Anishinabek Nation represents the nation-to-nation relationship that we believe will lead to faster resolution of our land claims and socio-economic challenges,” said Beaucage.
“We hear the frustration and anger from First Nation communities, but our current mandate is to engage Canada in open dialogue to jointly address these issues instead of trying to negotiate over barricades.
“We see Prentice’s agreement to establishing this bilateral relationship with the Anishinabek Nation as an indication that he is willing to help us find ways to forge a better future for our citizens, and for all Canadians.”
Beaucage and Prentice signed an agreement to conduct two annual Anishinabek/Canada bilateral meetings — a first for a provincial Native organization — to provide a forum for discussion of issues of mutual concern that impact Anishinabek First Nation communities and to expedite the resolution of problems.
All bilateral meetings will be based on the principles of mutual respect, building of trust and creation of practical working relationships, Beaucage said.
“We are confident that this bilateral relationship will give us the tools we require to implement our inherent and sovereign right to self-government,” said Beaucage.
“Our young people are frustrated, our families continue to be poor. But through these discussions and working towards the overall goal of self-government and self-sufficiency, we have hope and opportunity.”
Other items on Friday’s agenda included renewing the mandate for education self-government negotiations, child welfare, the recently endorsed Anishinabek Nation Law Respecting Matrimonial Real Property, this August’s historic Three Fires Confederacy Gathering at the Ojibways of Garden River, and plans to establish a Language Immersion Institute.
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is the political advocate for 42 member First Nations in Ontario, and is the oldest political organization in Ontario, tracing its origins to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.