An Open Letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario's Liberal Cabinet

Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier 
Legislative Building 
Queen's Park 
Toronto ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Wynne,

Re: A Successful First Nation & Municipal Sustainable Development Round-Table in SRFN Territory July 2-3/14

CUTLER, ON (Serpent River FN), July 7, 2014 /CNW/ - Once again on behalf of the Robinson-Huron Treaty 1850 community of Serpent River First Nation (SRFN) I wish to offer congratulations on your historic June 12th majority election win. As I said in our congratulatory Press Release – "The Ontario Liberal Government result under the leadership of Premier Kathleen Wynne is a positive outcome for Ontario and for First Nations in the province." The Release went on to say this election provides a unique opportunity to   "...modernize our approach and be willing to step-up the dialogue and results on issues like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Child Welfare, Education, Environment, Sustainable Development, Community Safety; all from the stand point of First Nation jurisdiction and from the position that treaties in Ontario must be respected..."

We recognize the Province cannot do this alone. Therefore because all local communities are in effect treaty beneficiaries, and because we have a long-standing treaty relationship in which is now named 'Ontario,' we believe local communities like our First Nations and municipalities must also take responsibility for our shared future. I am therefore pleased to inform you that last week, July 2nd and 3rd, we too made history when we hosted a very successful First Nation/Municipal assembly to seek consensus on a road map toward creating a Kiinaa Naakiidaa - Sustainable Development Strategy for the traditional lands in our Lake Huron north shore regional neighbourhood. SRFN along with leaders from six local communities including the City of Elliot Lake, Sagamok Anishinawbek, Mississauga FN, Town of Blind River and Town of Spanish, two full days were spent exploring ideas on how best to implement a Triple Bottom-Line, in which the sustainable relationship among the Land, the People and the Economy is paramount.

The communities represented agreed that regional efforts are vital to regional success. The focus, were our watersheds, headlands, and broader Treaty Territory/Crown Lands. Issues like mining, forestry, land-use, cottage lot development and NWMO's deep geological repository (DGR) studies were on the table as critical issues of the highest importance to all the communities that were in attendance. Many concerns remain to be defined regarding these topics.

There was a strong consensus and considerable goodwill to proceed together on a path toward sustainable development in our regional neighbourhood. In addition, it was believed the combined effects of the BC Supreme Court June 4th Whistler municipal Official Plan decision, and the June 26th Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Tsilhqot'in First Nation land title case will trigger significant assertions supporting the ability of First Nations to exert jurisdiction within their respective treaty lands. Taken together we have the ingredients for a new and constructive relationship.  Handled correctly this will be good for all Canadians because we believe time will demonstrate the need to go beyond the duty to consult and accommodation to the higher bar of consent as it pertains to resource development within respective treaty lands. This will reduce the uncertainty and promote sustainability for the benefit of all. I know you will agree, the need for sustainability far exceeds and cuts through any legal or political debate – we must work together. Further, these rulings also continue to reinforce First Nation jurisdiction and nationhood.

Premier, while some may be anxious and wish to interpret the Tsilhqot'in First Nation case and the Whistler municipal Official Plan decision through an isolated lens of the BC region and Aboriginal title, we both know that treaty territories and First Nation rights in Ontario are clearly open for interpretations and assertions that create a new potential to vastly re-define Ontario's land-use policies and access to natural resources for development. In one example here in the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 territory, we are currently outlining a number of discussions and preparations to exercise rights aimed at prompting discussions with Ontario about the illegitimacy of Canada's Indian Act on treaties in Ontario. Of jurisdictional interest in these discussions, we know that citizenship, status, treaty benefits, access to harvesting, accommodation and consultation, and scores of other caveats and competing interests are cementing the reality that Ontario must now include First Nations in all development – there is no other alternative. The BC region First Nations are defining today, what was well entrenched in treaties prior to Canada's constitution.

All that said, we plan a positive approach to building for the future with our neighbours. Therefore, as the Chief of the host community where leaders talked about a way forward in sustainable development, I would summarize our view of the important Provincial role as follows:

  1. Ensure strategic investments in regional planning, leading to sustainable development with FNs, municipalities and the Province at the table,
  2. Promote a dialogue with the Province on treaty history and reconciliation in order to build "multi-jurisdictional unity,"
  3. Advance Ontario's Northern Growth Plan by upholding the Places to Grow Act and move to include a renewal of principles and priorities in the 'Act' that recognize Treaties and the integral role of FNs,
  4. Establish a specific set of targets to advance Treaty principles on behalf of FNs and Ontarians intended to highlight your regions efforts and vision as such, at the Council of the Federation (CoF) in PEI in August.

In conclusion Madame Premier, I offer a reminder that this month marks the 250th year of the 1764 Treaty of Niagara. This commemoration is prompting many First Nation leaders to come to the table in the spirit of renewal and respect of their "treaty relationship" with the Crown. Many First Nation leaders are strongly urging all jurisdictions under the auspices of the Crown to take First Nations issues seriously and to come to the table prepared to advance solutions for all treaty partners. Premier, there is increasingly a sense of clarity and determination among First Nation people in Ontario that there are ways to invoke and influence change through the courts, by assertions, and by means that create upheaval of current provincial policy affecting lands. I convey with concern that we must find ways beyond this and beyond perpetual discussion. I also urge that as you prepare for the CoF meeting next month, that you go forward, keeping in mind the proposals of the Charlottetown Accord of 1992 where First Nations jurisdiction were seriously considered to create a new national equilibrium – recent court rulings are forcing this as the new reality.  

I have said that with the right focus and willingness to advance a collective responsibility to the treaties, Ontario can move from a "have not" province to one that flourishes and provides a healthy path forward for future generations for First Nations and all Ontarians. By our collaboration and unity of purpose, let's build a sustainable, strong healthy future. I look forward to your open reply and seek to understand your intended way forward for all Our Children.

In the Spirit and Intent of our Treaties,

(signed)

Chief Isadore DayWiindawtegowinini 
Serpent River First Nation

SOURCE Serpent River First Nation

For further information: Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini, Serpent River First Nation, Telephone: (705) 844-2418, Facsimile: (705) 844-2757