LONG LAC (October 16, 2007) – As the temperature drops across the north, First Nations felt luke-warm following the throne speech delivered today by Governor General Michaele Jean.
Speaking from the Northern Superior region of Anishinabek Nation territory, Grand Council Chief John Beaucage expressed concern that the Speech from the Throne is being used as a vehicle for political posturing by the federal parties in anticipation of an upcoming election.
“I am somewhat encouraged that there were sections in the speech specific to First Nation issues,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, who represents the largest First Nation organization in Ontario. “However, these positive elements may be totally thrown out if the political posturing carries forward with enough vehemence to force a general election.”
“I’m pleased that the Prime Minister is going to officially apologize to the victims of residential schools. This apology is long overdue,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “I look forward to the start of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will finally bring to light one of the saddest chapters in Canadian history.”
The Anishinabek Nation is also looking forward to working with The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada on new Specific Claims legislation to address over 80 land claims still outstanding among the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation.
“I am encouraged the Government sees this as an credible issue and is prepared to take steps to resolve the hundreds of outstanding land claims across Canada,” said Beaucage. “These outstanding claims are an impediment to economic growth and stability throughout First Nations communities across the country.”
However, Grand Council Chief Beaucage expressed concern that the most vulnerable citizens, First Nations children, are being lost in Harper’s agenda.
“Canada has a long way to overcome First Nations social issues. It is a national tragedy that one in four First Nations children live in poverty. Unfortunately, very little in the government’s agenda will improve the conditions for our people,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
“Instead of focusing on Afghanistan, First Nations poverty ought to be a significant priority for the Government of Canada,” said Beaucage.
Further, Grand Council Chief Beaucage supports the spirit and intent of the government’s proposed repeal of Section 67 of the Indian Act – which exempts First Nations from aspects of the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, he feels changes need to phased in by adopting an 18-24 month implementation period.
“The Anishinabek Nation supports the whole concept behind equality for all of us under the Canadian Human Rights Act,” said Beaucage. “However, because of the systemic issues that all First Nations have to face, this approach should be phased in at an appropriate pace to ensure success.”
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.