Feb.23/05 Budget offers disappointment from Ontario First Nations

THUNDER BAY, ON, February 23 /PR Direct/ – In responding to the 2005 Federal Budget, the Union of Ontario Indians is considerably disappointed with the government’s response to the “First Nations Housing Deficit,” a phrase coined by Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
“With this budget, the Government of Canada has done little to improve housing conditions on First Nations. This announcement isn’t even close to what is needed to improve the squalid, substandard and overcrowded conditions in our communities,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, elected leader of 42 First Nations across Ontario.
“Although I’m disappointed with the government investment in First Nations housing, I am encouraged that the Prime Minister and First Ministers will continue to meet with us, through the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable,” said Beaucage. “We expect further funding announcements with regard to housing at the First Ministers meeting in the Fall of 2005.”
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage sits on the Housing Sector of the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable. He will be meeting directly with Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Andy Scott on March 11.
The federal government has announced an allocation of $295 million over five years, or 6,400 new housing units to address new housing construction and renovations.
Grand Council Chief Beaucage is asking for an immediate investment of $1 billion per year to address the First Nations “housing deficit.”
The Union of Ontario Indians is calling upon the Government of Canada to utilize the so-called “contingency reserve” (of which $3 billion of the annual budget surplus is being set aside each year), to establish a First Nation Housing Innovation Fund, and a First Nations Housing Emergency Fund to address the substantial housing deficit that is of significant concern in First Nations.
According to the Grand Council Chief Beaucage: “We have to address the housing deficit within First Nation communities. There is an immediate need for over 85,000 new housing units across Canada. About half of that is required right here in Ontario with significant investment needed within Anishinabek Nation territory.”
More conservative estimates from government sources state the immediate need is between 8,800 and 35,000 new housing units.
The housing deficit refers to the immediate need for new housing, to address social housing needs, the need for retrofit of aging and substandard housing and to address problems such as health and safety concerns such as mold.
Although there was a definite sense of disappointment from First Nations over housing and residential school programs, the Union of Ontario Indians expressed optimism over the government’s commitment towards youth and family social programs and their attempt to meet the needs and addressing the priorities of First Nations communities.
The government announced $750 million over five years towards First Nations early learning and childcare; special education; a national system of early learning and childcare, and strengthening child and family services programs. The Union of Ontario Indians recognizes this as an investment in the priorities established by the First Nation communities.
“I am pleased to see this new investment towards our First Nations children, youth and families,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “This investment is a positive first step towards our goal of equitable social programs that meets the needs of our citizens. We encourage the federal and provincial governments to continue to work with us on improving our social programs.”
The Union of Ontario Indians is calling upon the government to meet with First Nations to come up with a cooperative way of implementing an equitable establishment of child care for First Nations, both on-reserve and in urban centres.
To address residential school survivors, the government extended the mandate of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) by two years. Grand Council Chief Beaucage doesn’t feel this extension will lead to any significant reconciliation or healing for traumatized and aging residential school survivors.
The government announced $40 million over two years to support community-based healing projects. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was established in 1998 as a response to the Statement of Reconciliation, where the government officially apologized for the residential school era.
“This is only a drop in the bucket of what is needed to address community healing, cultural revitalization, and compensation to those who suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse.”
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.

Feb.22/05 First Nations condemn Eagle killings

NIPISSING FIRST NATION (February 24, 2005) – First Nations in Ontario have condemned the desecration of at least 40 bald eagles, all found in the past three weeks, whose carcasses were discovered on a BC First Nation last week. The Anishinabek Nation are stating their profound outrage about the discovery, in an effort to mitigate further illicit trade in eagle parts, and to create an awareness of legitimate ceremonial use of these important sacred items.
“The idea of using one of our most important sacred symbols, Migizi (the bald eagle), for commercial gain is completely abhorrent to us and contrary to our sacred teachings,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
Beaucage offers a grave warning to those who may be partaking in the black market for eagle parts.
Beaucage said: “It should be understood that people who have obtained items in such a fashion may ultimately subject themselves to the antithesis of our what is sought after in our Seven Grandfather teachings. People who claim to follow this sacred path and who are buying materials from murdered eagles will know what I mean.”
The Seven Grandfather teachings include teachings on Truth, Honesty, Bravery, Humility, Wisdom, Love and Respect. This includes love and respect for the eagle, the most important spirit bird in all of Creation. It is said the eagle flies the highest and therefore is the closest to the Creator and the Spirit World.
Eagle feathers, talons, bones, and even mounted heads and bodies are very important and sacred items in Anishinabek culture and spirituality. Eagle feathers are universally considered by First Nations to be the greatest honour an individual can receive. In traditional societies, the whole body, bones, and various body parts are used in healing ceremonies and for medicinal purposes.
In December 2003, Prime Minister Paul Martin was smudged by an Ojibwe Elder using an eagle feather.
Feathers adore pow-wow dance regalia and are used in many different ceremonies and gatherings.
Strict protocols govern the use of such eagle items. Traditional teachings forbid the sale of such sacred items, and specific care protocols must be employed to ensure their care and respect.
Laws are in place to ensure the protection of this magnificent bird which is still considered endangered. However, aboriginal people in both Canada and the United States, are still able to possess eagle feathers and parts for ceremonial use through legislative exemptions.
Legitimate ways of obtaining eagle feathers and other eagle items include trading or bartering between First Nations people, acquisitions through zoos and aviaries, moulting at nest sites, and occasionally from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The MNR and First Nations have been involved in discussions about eagle feathers and eagle parts through the Anishinabek-Ontario Resource Management Council, which is a partnership between the province and the Union of Ontario Indians. This forum has provided a healthy discussion about the conservation of bald eagles and golden eagles, as well as an opportunity for MNR officials to understand the various aspects of obtaining and possessing eagle items. As a result, the MNR have been able to donate some birds that have died from natural causes, accidents and, in rare instances, poaching.


My Boyz… Miigwans and Griffin.
Photo by Mommy.

Feb. 22/04 Flawed census data means flawed funding

First Nations not participating in Census
By John Beaucage
Grand Council Chief
Special Column to the Anishinabek News
Why do First Nations in Ontario continue to lose money to other sectors such as western First Nations and to other Native organizations in Ontario? How does government decide to send funds to someone else rather than us when as a group we are in such a huge need?
With this short article I will try to explain what happens. When government departments are in their planning stage, which usually happens about 8 to 10 months prior to a budget year, one of the first things they look at is demographic data. This data provides income and age distribution, migration patterns and in our case ethnic background for targeted program dollars. If our data is incomplete or flawed, then the outcome of dollar distribution is just as flawed.
Recently this has happened with the Aboriginal Human Resource Development Strategy (AHRDS), an allocation model was developed by Human Resources Canada that relied specifically on the 2001 Census. We know that the First Nation participation on this census was quite low resulting in a significant reduction in funding allocation to Ontario.
There are a number political reasons for First Nations not participating in the census, and I will not argue with or make light of these decisions by First Nations. However, one must wonder if we are causing ourselves greater harm in the long run by opting out of the government process of counting us. It means that some of our members will not get funded under training programs, it means that we may not get the kind of education dollars that we need or health funding in some key areas.
After finding out about the funding cuts we immediately started a process of political advocacy to change the allocation model to base it upon our own statistics based upon our membership data. For the most part there is a realization that that census data is complete, but essentially it is the best they have. So it means that every time there is a planning process underway for major government programs we may have a chance of losing money to another sector who have chosen to participate in a big way with the census. We can and will intervene in a political way as best we can, but we may not win every battle.
In order to best verify or give maximum credence to our numbers we have to do one of two things as First Nations in Ontario. We must participate wholeheartedly in the next census, or we must engage in the First Nations Statistics operations in a big way. Our data concerning our population growth, income, age distribution must verify that program dollars must be allocated right here in Ontario.
So please for our sake, let’s stand up and be counted.

Anishinabek Nation hosting inaugural meeting

of United Indian Nations of the Great Lakes
Over the past few months, First Nations in Canada and US Tribes have been collaborating to address their respective concerns over the Great Lakes Charter Annex 2001. Throughout these discussions, participants found much in common with a consensus that First Nations and Tribes want to unite to protect the quality and quantity of Great Lakes water.
As a follow-up to these meeting, the Union of Ontario Indians is proposing the first meeting of the United Indian Nations of the Great Lakes take place on April 11-12 at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
“We take great pleasure in hosting this inaugural meeting and building on the consensus that we have achieved so far,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
This historic union began in the fall, as Grand Council Chief Beaucage, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians Grand Chief Chris McCormick, and Little Traverse Bay Band Chairperson Frank Ettawageshik agreed to bring their respective First Nations/Tribes together to discuss the Great Lakes Charter, Annex 2001.
On November 22, 2004, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa hosted a Summit attended by over 170 Tribes and First Nations, who drafted the Tribal and First Nations Great Lakes Water Accord. The Water Accord was then presented to the two Canadian Provinces and eight U.S. States who are signatories to the Great Lakes Charter and are currently negotiating the Annex Implementation Agreements.
As a result, the Tribes and First Nations were invited to present their concerns to the Council of Great Lakes Governors water management group, in Chicago, IL on February 1.
During an inter-tribal caucus, it was generally agreed that the Tribes and First Nations would embark on a parallel process to that of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. This would ensure a unified, and coordinated approach to our concerns over the Great Lakes Charter Annex, and issues involving the Great Lakes basin. It was also agreed First Nations/Tribes would attempt to negotiate their inclusion into the process, in a way that their parallel process would be recognized and entrenched in the Annex Implementation Agreements.
Further, it was agreed that U.S. Tribes and First Nations in Canada would get together to discuss the concept of forming the United Indian Nations of the Great Lakes. This assembly would be the body that would be recognized by the agreements, and the various non-Indian jurisdictions as the unified, coordinated voice of the Great Lakes Indian Nations.

Feb.21/05 Chiefs of Ontario Launch Ontario-wide Housing Initiative

Toronto, Ontario, February 21 /PR Direct/ – The Chiefs of Ontario are determined to address the existing housing backlog by spearheading the Strategic Planning for Housing Capacity Development initiative to be officially launched at the Political Confederacy of the Chiefs of Ontario meeting.
The Strategic Planning for Housing Capacity Development initiative is a three-phase approach to improve the First Nation housing crisis in Ontario. The key elements of the phased initiative include planning and capacity development, negotiation of funding and transfer of authority, implementation, after care and long term maintenance. Regional Chief Charles Fox said, “Our ultimate goal is to turn the tragedy of our housing crisis that exists into a strategy for housing development for First Nations in Ontario.”
By raising awareness of housing issues to community members and other stakeholders, it will provide data gathering and information to facilitate planning of housing portfolios in the respective First Nation communities. The vehicle for disseminating information is the creation of a website link on the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation portal to be operational in March at www.ofntsc.org/ofnsch-content.htm.
The urgency of the housing issue continues to be reflected in the Auditor General’s Report and delivered in the Speech from the Throne. “…the conditions in far too many Aboriginal communities can only be described as shameful. This offends our values. It is in our collective interests to turn the corner. And we must start now.”
Strategic planning and investment in housing will produce demonstrable results as is evidenced in the area of First Nation education today. In 1969 only about 100 First Nations people had graduated university. Today it is estimated there are about 30,000 post-secondary graduates. More recently, the substantial efforts made in developing Aboriginal human resources and urban Aboriginal strategies have created opportunities for training and employment.
Grand Chief Angie Barnes of Akwesasne-Political Confederacy Housing Portfolio said, “This process is a risk taking exercise and a nation building approach at the same time.”
The Union of Ontario Indians Grand Council Chief John Beaucage shares the housing portfolio with Grand Chief Angie Barnes in the area of infrastructure. The UOI is embarking on a parallel implementation strategy that will see housing development work begin in four First Nations across Ontario by the fall of 2005.
The initiative is supported and has participation of Ontario First Nations Steering Committee on Housing, Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation, the four Provincial Territorial Organizations namely, Union of Ontario Indians, Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, Treaty #3, Association of Allied and Iroquois Indians and the Independent and Unaffiliated First Nations representatives.
The Chiefs of Ontario is the coordinating body for 134 First Nation communities in Ontario. The purpose of the Chiefs of Ontario office is to enable the political leadership to discuss regional, provincial and national priorities affecting First Nation people in Ontario and to provide a unified voice on these issues.

Feb.3/05 Anishinabek planning urban strategy

NIPISSING FIRST NATION, February 3 /PR Direct/ – The Union of Ontario Indians is developing an urban strategy to address the social challenges faced by its citizens living off-reserve.
“We must become vigilant and ensure our brothers and sisters who live off-reserve are taken care of, and are provided substantial support and assistance to close the income gap and ensure prosperity for all our people,” said John Beaucage, Grand Council Chief of the 42-member Anishinabek Nation. Beaucage was commenting on a recent study by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which showed that aboriginal people face a wider income gap and higher unemployment rates in a number of urban centres across Canada. Sudbury, with an estimated 13,000 aboriginal residents, was one of the cities involved in the FCM study. Other major urban centres within Anishinabek Nation territory include Sarnia, London, Barrie, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay.
“We feel the findings are indicative of a similar trend across other urban centres within the Anishinabek Nation territory,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “It is obvious that the federal and provincial governments are failing to address First Nations unemployment and poverty.”
Beaucage said the Union of Ontario Indians is committed to providing equal and effective advocacy for their urban and off-reserve citizens through the development of an urban strategy, which will be part of the organization’s strategic workplan called “Anishinabe Noondaagaazwin — listening to the voice of the people.” Adopted by the organization’s board in December 2004, this strategic framework aims to address issues of unemployment, education, family violence and child welfare, and literacy. Beaucage said a specific urban strategy on these issues will ensure the organization is effective at representing its 50,000 citizens on and off-reserve.
The Grand Council Chief plans to work with urban service delivery organizations, such as the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, and individual Indian Friendship Centres, to implement the UOI First Nations urban strategy. He applauds the work of the Friendship Centres across Ontario for providing services to urban residents.
“We understand that many Anishinabek who live in cities take advantage of programs offered through the friendship centres,” Beaucage said, noting that his organization provides all friendship centres in Ontario with bundles of the Anishinabek News, the UOI monthly newspaper. “We do our best to let all our citizens know about the work we are doing on their behalf.”
The Grand Council Chief expressed concern about organizations that claim to speak on behalf of urban and off-reserve First Nation citizens. “The so-called off-reserve representation of our urban First Nations citizens is a ruse. Simply put, these organizations have become self-serving and are ineffective. Our national and regional organizations, including the Union of Ontario Indians, must step up to more effectively represent urban First Nation residents. These are our brothers and sisters who have H3 ties to our lands and historical communities. Let it be clear that we are one people no matter where we choose to live.”
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.

Jan. 17/05

Front from left: Cynthia Belfitt, Darlene McGregor, Teresa Keith, Janice Fox. Standing, from left: Professor Cheryle Partridge, Donna Simpson, Stewart Akiwenzie, Randy Pitawanakwat, Lissa Lavallee, Donna Corston, Dolores Naponse, Barbara Peltier, Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, Joey-Lynn Wabie, Nancy McCaig-Tobias, Anna McGregor, Jimmy Moore. (Missing: Dianne Debassige, Martina Osawamick, Cecil Trudeau.) – Photo by Monica Lister

Grand Chief gives governance talk

SUDBURY — Grand Council Chief John Beaucage received a warm welcome from students enrolled in the Culture Specific Helping with First Nations Peoples class and Theory for Native Social Work Practice I class at the University of Sudbury January 17, 2005.
The Grand Council Chief talked about Anishinabek history, traditional governance, and what is happening now in self-government initiatives. He also explained how the students can be part of the self-government process. Native Human Services, as a program, was sanctioned by the Union of Ontario Indians at its inception in 1988.
If you are interested in a career in social work or if you would like more information, call Freda at (705) 675-1151, ext. 5082. If you are interested in finding out more about the Anishinabek Nation and the Union of Ontario Indians, please visit our website at www.anishinabek.ca.

Jan. 15/05 Anishinabek Nation leads push for Gull Bay solution

KIASHKE ZAAGING —Grand Council Chief John Beaucage and the Union of Ontario Indians have been instrumental in developing a new multi-faceted approach to dealing with long-standing issues in Kiashe Zaaging Anishinabeg (Gull Bay) First Nation.
At a meeting held in December, the Kiashke Zaaging and the Union of Ontario Indians developed a new strategy to deal with the various issues of concern in the community.
“We are pleased to be able to assist Kiashke Zaaging in resolving these long-standing issues,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
“This task force approach shows the commitment of all parties to come to the table and discuss these matters in an open and frank manner.”
The plan includes an innovative task force approach that would bring together a technical advisory group consisting of Gull Bay Chief and Council, Union of Ontario Indians, Ontario First Nations Technical Services, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s Ontario Regional office and Thunder Bay office, and a new Third Party Manager.
This strategy should include a comprehensive workplan, including goals, resources, and timeframes as well as those responsible for completing various tasks. This comprehensive approach should include:

Addressing housing mould issue; Bringing water treatment plant and new water system online;

Developing a new housing strategy for Gull Bay;

Addressing hydro generation capacity and bring generating station online;

Addressing concerns over third-party management.

Grand Council Chief John Beaucage spent a day touring the community and visiting an information roadblock on Highway 527.
“It’s an awful thing that a community has to feel like they have to undergo some kind of civil disobedience to get the message out there,” he said.

Jan. 1/05
Anishinabe Noondaagaazwin:

A strategic workplan for political action

Since last fall, there have been a number of significant changes have been made in the operations of the Anishinabek Nation Political Office. These changes have been done to improve the overall function of political advocacy, and provide strategic approach to achieving political objectives.
On December 14, the Union of Ontario Indians Board of Directors approved a document entitled: Anishinabe Noondaagaazwin – A strategic workplan for political action. Anishinabe Noondaag-aazwin, means “listening to the voice of the people.” This concept refers to knowing our “reason to be:” Listening to and working for the Anishinabek people.
“Our ‘reason to be’ is simple: the Union of Ontario Indians is a political organization and the goals and objectives of the UOI are primarily political in nature,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
The Anishinabek Nation Political Office has endeavoured to establish a strategic workplan for political action, which will focus the vision and direction of the Executive into practical, effective, and measurable means of accomplishing the political advocacy goals of the Anishinabek Nation.
“It is important to stress the importance of sharing that mandate across the organization, and of maximizing the organizational resources to fulfill the goals of the organization,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage.
This strategic planning exercise marks the first time that the Political Office has developed an annual workplan to guide the proactive, strategic political advocacy of the Grand Council Chief and the Deputy Grand Chief. The organization, in turn, will implement these goals, objectives and tasks within their annual inter-departmental planning cycle.
The purpose of this strategic workplan is to share information about our goals and objectives, planning and implementation across the entire organization, including the Grand Council Assembly, Board of Directors, committees, management, departments, directors and staff. Each and every part of the organization will play a role in the UOI’s mandate as a political advocacy organization.
The Union of Ontario Indians Board of Directors has also given direction to hold a Board of Directors Retreat in late-February to reaffirm the mandate of the organization, discuss direction and approve the interdepartmental workplan of the Union of Ontario Indians.
Part of our strategic planning process will be the development of a comprehensive Issues Tracking System, and Resolutions Tracking System. This database will ensure that individual issues and items are incorporated and implemented within departmental workplans and are followed-up to completion. This will also give us a system for the evaluation of issues and resolutions. It will also provide us with a searchable database of past and present UOI political advocacy and initiatives.
The strategic workplan for political action utilizes the principles, priorities and work already identified in Wedokdodwin, a document outlining the mission to support the restoration of Anishinabek Nation governance and jurisdiction through advocacy and coordination. The document was approved by the UOI Board of Directors in 1997, and revised in 2001.