NIPISSING FIRST NATION – (CCNMatthews – April 4, 2006) First Nations in Canada have expressed profound disappointment in today’s Speech from the Throne. With the exception of a vague mention of aboriginal entrepreneurs in the preamble and a mention of improving opportunities for all Canadians “including Aboriginal peoples”, there was no mention of aboriginal issues in today’s address to Parliamentarians.
“The First Peoples’ of Canada have been left high-and-dry in this Throne Speech,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, leader of the 43-member First Nations of the Union of Ontario Indians. “I am profoundly disappointed that there has been no priority given, whatsoever, regarding key aboriginal issues, including the elimination of poverty, aboriginal health care, drinking water quality and substandard infrastructure, and housing.”
“We continue to be left in the dark about the Conservative government’s aboriginal agenda,” added Grand Council Chief.
Grand Council Chief Beaucage was the co-chair of the First Ministers’ Meeting Working Groups in Housing and Relationships. As such, he was quite taken-aback about the lack of any mention of the First Ministers’ Meeting priorities: Housing, Health, Life Long Learning, Economic Opportunities, and Relationships.
“We have maintained that the First Nations’ housing deficit is at critical levels. First Nations housing should not only be a priority for this government, it should be a basic human right of all Canadians,” said Beaucage.
First Nations have long maintained there is a significant shortage of housing in First Nations’ communities across Canada. Needs estimate range from 35,000 to 85,000 units.
“We are ready to build and own our own homes. We are ready to show that the First Nations’ housing action plan resulting from the First Ministers’ meeting can work and that with the proper priority and investment, a bona fide housing market can be established in First Nation communities,” said Beaucage.
Beaucage was pleased to see the government moving to improve community safety by “putting more police on the street”. First Nations police services are among the lowest funded services in Canada. A number of First Nations in Ontario have been waiting for police services including: Serpent River First Nation, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, and Long Lake #58.
“For years we have seen the need for improved safety and policing in First Nation communities. We expect that this government’s priority will mean more First Nation police officers, new policing to under-serviced First Nations and better overall security and safety for Canadian communities.”
However, health care continues to be the issue of most concern for First Nations in Canada.
“Our people are suffering – our people are dying – while mainstream Canadians can be assured they will get the health care that they pay for,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “The lack of priority for First Nations health will mean little or no progress on the prescription drug abuse, diabetes and mental health issues and suicide prevention.”
There is a tremendous concern over the prevalence of prescription drug abuse in Ontario First Nation communities. Abuse and trafficking of Oxycoten, percadone, percacets, and crystal methamphetamines has emerged as the number one health priority for First Nations in Ontario, especially in Anishinabek Nation territory.
The Union of Ontario Indians is proposing a comprehensive strategy to curb the problem of prescription drug abuse and support First Nations that are coping with treatment and affects of this problem.
Just this weekend, another suicide took place at the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation near London, Ontario. A number of suicides and many more attempts have taken place there over the past few months. It’s been a disturbing trend in urban Native communities not only in impoverished northern communities.
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 UOI 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.