ONTARIO REGIONAL CHIEF BEARDY RESPONDS TO ONTARIO THRONE SPEECH
Toronto, ON (February 20, 2013) Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy indicated that the Throne Speech unveiled by the Ontario Government yesterday offered little to signal a genuine change of course in the First Nations and provincial government relationship. “There were some promising statements in the Throne Speech but nothing new to signal that Premier Wynne and this government will act to make the fundamental changes that need to be made to address First Nations priorities and to improve our relationship,” stated Regional Chief Beardy.
The Throne Speech reiterated a commitment to work to ensure that Aboriginal communities have access to the tools and training they need to fully participate in the economy and to share in the benefits derived from resource development. Regional Chief Beardy indicated that these commitments, though welcome, are not new. “We`ve heard these commitments before. What we need now is action. First Nations are willing to work together with governments as equal partners in order that we may all benefit --- First Nations and Ontarians alike,” said the Regional Chief. He emphasized that governments and resource development companies are obligated to consult with First Nations with respect to resource development projects on First Nation traditional lands and that failure to do so could put projects and investments in jeopardy. “Many First Nations are actively exploring business and resource development opportunities within their traditional territories but they will not tolerate having their rights ignored. First Nations have the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent in relation to projects and initiatives that may impact their lands and resources,” stated Regional Chief Beardy. “It is simply smart business practice to work in respectful collaboration with First Nations as this will promote certainty for investors and project success.”
The provincial government also pledged to work with Aboriginal communities to “close the gap” between First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and their non-Aboriginal peers. As has been widely documented the educational gap between these groups is significant and the funding provided by the federal government to support First Nations learners in comparison to their non-Aboriginal, provincially-funded peers, is much lower and is estimated to be $2000 to $3000 less per student per year. Regional Chief Beardy pointed out that study after study has demonstrated this discriminatory gap in funding and that simply continuing to say we need to close the gap is not good enough. The Regional Chief underscored the need for immediate coordinated action between both levels of government with First Nations supported by a significant commitment of new funding. “I urge the provincial government to take a stronger stance in taking the federal government to task on this matter as each and every child that lives in Ontario deserves a quality education. The province cannot simply pass this off as a matter that the federal government must deal with,” said the Regional Chief.
Regional Chief Beardy expressed his appreciation of the intent of Premier Wynne and the provincial government to work toward a more fair society; however, he emphasized the need for both levels of government to consider those factors that have contributed to the Idle No More movement and its popularity. Specifically, the disparity in living conditions between First Nations and non-First Nations, the lack of respect for the rights of First Nations, and the lack of fulfillment of the Treaty promises. “First Nations have a unique relationship with governments as defined by our Treaties and we must be dealt with on the basis of our Treaty relationships and our constitutionally protected rights,” stated Regional Chief Beardy.
The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum, and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada.