NIPISSING FIRST NATION – Leaders of the Anishinabek Nation were caught off guard by a surprise Cabinet shuffle announced today by Premier Dalton McGuinty. There had been no explanation earlier this week when a high-level meeting between First Nations leaders and the Premier scheduled for today was abruptly cancelled.

“Our Political Confederacy was obviously displeased when the meeting between the Grand Chiefs and the Premier was cancelled with little notice,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. “It certainly concerns us that, even yesterday, it was business as usual with the previous Minister and we weren’t given any prior notice of this significant change.”

On Wednesday Grand Council Chief Beaucage and the other three Grand Chiefs in Ontario met for several hours with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant, who was shifted to the Economic Development portfolio in today’s cabinet shuffle.

Given the number of significant developments taking place within the relatively new Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs portfolio, Beaucage has concerns about the timing of the change.

“In the past few weeks, we’ve seen new challenges to our long relationship with the Ministry of Natural Resources. Now the Premier changes the lead Minister. I certainly hope that these developments don’t signal a change in Ontario’s focus and commitment to First Nations affairs.”

The Grand Council Chief says the Anishinabek Nation looks forward to establishing a good working relationship with new Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Brad Duguid, who has served as Minister of Labour since the last provincial election in October 2007.

“I really look forward to working with Minister Duguid. Today, he begins work on one of the most challenging portfolios within the Ontario government. Our office will do whatever we can to help bring him up to speed so there are no delays in the momentum that began with the creation of this ministry on the recommendation of the Ipperwash Inquiry.”

“This is an excellent time to renew our government-to-government relationship, as we continue our commitment to work with the Government of Ontario on our priorities,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage.

Current priorities for the Anishinabek Nation include implementation of the 100 recommendations of the Ipperwash Inquiry Final Report, changes to the Ontario Mining Act, developing First Nations capacity in economic development, treaty implementation and resource benefit-sharing.

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.