GARDEN RIVER FIRST NATION – (Nov. 1, 2006) – A First Nations leader is proposing an innovative approach to building a relationship between the provincial Aboriginal Affairs Minister, the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and First Nations in Ontario.
Grand Council Chief Beaucage is drafting an invitation to the Hon. Jim Prentice and the Hon. David Ramsay to take part in a traditional Anishinaabe sweat-lodge ceremony in an Ontario First Nations community.
“Their relationship has gone completely sour,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage during a special assembly of Chiefs of the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation. “There has to be common ground if both sides are to work together in partnership with First Nations to help us make progress on our issues. That common ground can help both leaders better understand how critical their cooperation is if First Nations are to become contributing partners to the Canadian federation.”
“The sweat-lodge is a purification ceremony that also revives the spirit of those people who take part,” Beaucage noted. “That is exactly what is needed here. I think that both sides have lost focus of our mutual goals: to work towards eradication of First Nations poverty and improving the lives of the First Peoples of Canada.”
Beaucage said he hopes that the ceremony with First Nations leaders, and the experience of meeting on First Nation territory will rekindle a cooperative spirit.
He was hoping Ministers Prentice and Ramsay would agree to participate in the ceremony in the Great Lakes territory of the Anishinabek Nation within the next few weeks.
On Tuesday provincial Minister David Ramsay was snubbed by federal Minister Jim Prentice when the latter refused to meet in Ottawa with his provincial counterpart.
The Grand Council Chief voiced his disappointment that the two leaders could not agree to meet.
“There is a perception that First Nations in Ontario are being ignored by the federal Conservative government,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for Jim Prentice, but at some point he has to come to the table.”
Despite a number of requests, Grand Council Chief Beaucage has been unsuccessful in arranging a meeting with the federal minister.
This despite the Grand Council Chief’s role as national chair and portfolio holder for Housing and Infrastructure for the Assembly of First Nations, two areas Minister Prentice has indicated are priorities on the aboriginal file.
Following a tense September meeting, AFN Regional Chief Angus Toulouse, representing the Chiefs of Ontario, said he felt Minister Prentice did not demonstrate respect for First Nations issues and seemed to ignore the priorities of the leadership.
Grand Council Chief Beaucage also expressed concern over the amount of time Prentice is devoting to the Indian Affairs file.
In addition to being the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, he also serves as the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, the Minister Responsible for Alberta, Chair of Cabinet, and is a member of the Treasury Board of Canada, Planning and Priorities Committee, Operations Committee and Social Affairs Committee.
“I would encourage the prime minister and cabinet to reconsider the likelihood that any one minister can adequately give attention to all those major responsibilities. The Caledonia land reclamation issue alone requires a great deal of federal attention. These are issues the minister cannot solve in Ottawa committee rooms. We invite him into our First Nations to get a better understanding of his portfolio.”