Photo © Courtesy of Chiefs of Ontario
Chiefs of Ontario Hosts Annual Chiefs Assembly with the theme Every Child Matters: A New Legacy
Every Child Matters: A New Legacy was the theme for this year’s Annual Chiefs Assembly, held on June 14-16 in Toronto, Ontario. The event was hosted by the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) and the Independent First Nations (IFN) and held on the traditional territory of many Nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnaabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples.
Many First Nations leaders, citizens, technicians, youth, and Elders made the journey from across Ontario to join and celebrate culture, discuss current situations and create plans for the future. In addition, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, attended this year’s event.
During the assembly, the IFN and COO hosted an evening event of inspiration, healing, and entertainment. Youth from different communities shared their moving and poignant thoughts on what Every Child Matters means to them. The Council Fire Youth Drum group provided beautiful cultural singing and dancing entertainment, Logan and Layla Staats gave a stirring musical performance, and Oneida singers, Janice Ninham, Breeze Brown, Amanda Doxtator, and Semya Doxtator, provided a rich and empowering cultural performance for those in attendance. It was an inspiring evening enjoyed by all.
The assembly provided updates on many important issues and priorities for First Nations in Ontario, including First Nations children in care, First Nations languages and education, land and environmental matters, economic development, and First Nations laws and jurisdiction. Many Elders and youth provided updates and participated in the event, as well.
“The most important takeaway from the event was the secured compensation for the First Nations children who were in care,” said Ontario Regional Chief (ORC) Glen Hare. “Although money cannot erase what happened to these children, it can help provide for needs they have now due to the trauma they experienced by being unnecessarily taken away from their families or while in care.”
Twenty-three resolutions were passed by the Chiefs and proxies related to governance, language revitalization, health and wellness, education sovereignty, natural resource development, and biodiversity.
“The priorities right now are to meet with the Prime Minister, and the re-elected [Ontario] Premier, Doug Ford, and ministers, to further discuss bettering education for First Nations children and ensuring concrete action towards addressing First Nations-specific priorities,” ORC Hare said. “It is time for us—both First Nations and the Government of Ontario—to commit to a renewed relationship, based on the spirit and intent of reconciliation, and recognition of First Nations’ Inherent and Treaty-protected rights.”
Additionally, the Chiefs-in-Assembly passed two resolutions addressing inflation and improving economic policy and strategic infrastructure development for First Nations in Ontario. These resolutions include Resolution 22/19, Fighting Rising Inflation in Communities by Matching Federal Funding with Inflation, and Resolution 22/21, Closing the Infrastructure Gap in First Nation Communities.
These resolutions provide direction for the COO to assist communities in their advocacy and provide additional support and accessible options to secure greater economic independence for their communities.
In keeping with the theme of the event, 45 Chiefs-in-Assembly signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal ministers requesting a two-year extension beyond the deadline of July 13, 2022, to submit claims by those who were physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically harmed in the federally run Indian Day Schools.
The letter also advocates for settlement agreement amendments to ensure victims can adjust the level of compensation in their claim and to ensure in-person support is available for all claimants beyond what is currently available through call centres. In addition to the financial restitution to claimants, the long-term mental health effects of claimants must also be considered and taken into account.
The Annual Chiefs Assembly was a successful event with plenty of camaraderie and collaboration on steps to move forward, creating hope for the future for all First Nations in Ontario.
Chiefs of Ontario supports all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction, and their chosen expression of nationhood.