Cross-Canada cooperation on Aboriginal affairs priorities key to achieving
concrete results

TORONTO, Oct. 29 /CNW/ - Today, Aboriginal affairs ministers and the leaders of five national Aboriginal organizations agreed to work together, as the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group, to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. It is the first time in four years a meeting of representatives from all senior levels of government and national Aboriginal organizations has taken place to address a broad range of issues, over and above the current challenges of the economy, facing First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples.

"This is our generation's opportunity to ensure that we bring real and substantive change to the quality of life for the next generation of Aboriginal people. This can only be achieved by closing the socio-economic gap that exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. Through a revitalized historic process, we will work collaboratively on the most critical challenges facing Aboriginal people - education and economic development. Through this new national process, it is my hope that our work will lead towards a future First Ministers' Meeting," said Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

The creation of the working group, with membership from all provinces and territories, and the national Aboriginal organizations, fulfills a direction from all premiers in their discussions last summer in Regina, Saskatchewan with the five national Aboriginal organization leaders.

Ministers and leaders confirmed that establishing a strong and enduring working group process of provincial and territorial ministers responsible for Aboriginal affairs and national Aboriginal leaders is critical to improving socio-economic conditions for all Aboriginal peoples.

Further, they agreed that many priorities are shared between working group members and the federal government. Where policies and programs exist or are contemplated in shared priority areas, federal government participation will be critical to achieving concrete, measurable results for all Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Minister Strahl thanked the provincial/territorial/Aboriginal working group for inviting him to their meeting. On behalf of the federal government, he looks forward to reviewing the recommendations of the working group and to working closely with the provinces, territories and Aboriginal organizations through the partnerships approach established over the last couple of years, which has already yielded results. The minister also said he would make his officials available to assist the working group officials.

The working group reiterated the premiers' call for a First Ministers' Meeting on Aboriginal issues, and committed to report its recommendations to them just before the next Council of the Federation meeting scheduled for August 2010 in Manitoba.

Ministers and leaders chose two broad priority areas to be dealt with through the working group's new process. These priorities include:

    
    -   education and skills training and
    -   economic development.
    

Education and Skills Training

Ministers and leaders agreed to work with ministers of education on specific priority areas identified through the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, in addition to agreements and processes already in place. There would be an initial focus on K-12 education, with expanded opportunities on other elements along the lifelong learning continuum in the medium to long term.

Topics for further discussions could range from early childhood development through to enhanced post-secondary opportunities for all Aboriginal peoples.

Economic Development

Increasing economic opportunities for Aboriginal peoples is a key priority. The working group will focus on finding ways to explore, enhance and advance economic development in ways that respect the needs and interests of all parties concerned.

Topics could address areas such as impediments to economic and business development, supporting entrepreneurship, or improving trade opportunities and energy sources for Aboriginal communities and peoples.

Health and Well-being

In addition to the two identified priority areas, participants acknowledged that the area of health and well-being is fundamental to achieving progress in those two identified areas. Integral to this area is responding to the issues of violence against Aboriginal women, and missing and murdered Aboriginal women which requires a national, coordinated effort. They agreed that health and well-being would be discussed more broadly at a meeting of the working group in April 2010.

    

                       Recommendations adopted by the
                       Aboriginal Affairs Working Group

    1.  That Provincial Territorial Ministers responsible for Aboriginal
        Affairs and the five National Aboriginal Organizations(1) Leaders
        commit to ongoing dialogue by participating on the Aboriginal Affairs
        Working Group with a view to identifying and implementing concrete
        and tangible actions to improve outcomes for First Nation, Inuit and
        Métis peoples in the priority areas discussed at the October 29, 2009
        meeting.

    2.  That education and economic development be tabled as topics for
        further exploration at the meeting of Ministers and National
        Aboriginal Organization Leaders on October 29, 2009 with the aim of
        jointly selecting specific areas for further exploration and initial
        work.

    3.  That Provincial, Territorial and Aboriginal officials be directed to
        begin immediate work, with their federal counterparts, within the
        selected topics and return to the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group
        with recommendations for concrete and tangible activities that could
        be taken by governments and National Aboriginal Organizations. This
        work would take the form of one or more discussion documents or
        action plans with recommended areas for actions to be tabled at the
        next Working Group meeting proposed for April 2010.

    4.  That Provincial Territorial Ministers and National Aboriginal
        Organization Leaders connect the work of the Working Group to other
        forums and processes as appropriate (e.g., Provincial Territorial
        Ministers and Aboriginal Leaders' connection back to the Council of
        the Federation; linkages between the Working Group and Council of the
        Ministers of Education Canada on education matters; for the federal
        government and provinces from Ontario west, the Ministerial
        roundtable session on Métis economic development); and work toward a
        First Ministers' Meeting on Aboriginal Issues in 2010. The First
        Ministers' Meeting would serve as the key vehicle to launch a plan to
        achieve concrete and tangible outcomes for First Nation, Inuit and
        Métis peoples consistent with the objectives of each of the parties.

    5.  That special attention is paid to the need for a distinctions-based
        approach for First Nations, Inuit and Métis where appropriate, and
        that this approach should fully integrate the needs and perspectives
        of women, urban populations, youth and other issues.

    -------------------
    (1) Assembly of First Nations, Metis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit
        Kanatami, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and Native Women's
        Association of Canada



    Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for Aboriginal Affairs
             and Leaders of the National Aboriginal Organizations

                                 Backgrounder
                               October 29, 2009

     MINISTERS AND NATIONAL ABORIGINAL LEADERS ACKNOWLEDGE IMPORTANCE OF
                      COOPERATION ON ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
    

Hon. Pierre Corbeil, Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Quebec:

"The Government of Quebec is also committed to improving the well-being of Aboriginal people. This involves prioritizing education. Promoting academic success among Aboriginal people is key to helping communities ensure that their values and traditions are respected."

Hon. Darrell Dexter, Premier and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Nova Scotia:

As Premier, I am committed to working with leaders both nationally and regionally to improve the quality of life for aboriginal people, said Premier Dexter. As a learning province, Nova Scotia will work to ensure young aboriginal people have the knowledge and skills to participate in the workforce. Together, we will address the barriers in our education system and the barriers to employment faced by Mi'kmaq youth.

Hon. Rick Brewer, Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, New Brunswick:

"It is a pleasure for me to be part of this historic meeting where we as Ministers responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and the National Aboriginal Leaders are meeting to agree on a course for improving the quality of life of all aboriginal people in Canada. The Province of New Brunswick has set a goal to be "self sufficient" by the year 2026 and this includes all the First Nation communities and Aboriginal people in New Brunswick. Focusing on Education and lifelong learning, economic and economy development all grounded in a healthy and safe life style will be the keys pillars to making real changes to the lives and prosperity of all aboriginal people in New Brunswick and Canada. I am pleased to be part of this new direction."

National Inuit Leader Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami:

"Improving the living conditions of Inuit, First Nations and Métis is paramount and urgent. This has been a good start. It is my fervent hope that this and subsequent meetings will lead to a well informed First Ministers Meeting on Aboriginal issues in 2010."

National Chief Betty Ann Lavallée, CD, QJ(RTD), Congress of Aboriginal Peoples:

"Only through Aboriginal peoples providing awareness and solutions that realize and promote the self-worth, merit, capacity and human dignity of all Aboriginal peoples regardless of where they live throughout their native homelands within Canada will real progress take place."

Hon. George Abbott, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, British Columbia:

"The Province of British Columbia is committed to closing the socio-economic gaps between Aboriginal peoples and other British Columbians. Since 2005, our work partnering with First Nations, Métis leaders and with the federal government has resulted in real progress. I look forward to continuing that work within this new national approach to Aboriginal economic development and education."

Hon. Carolyn Bertram, Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Prince Edward Island:

"In Prince Edward Island, we are proud of our strong relationship with the Mi'kmaq and other Aboriginal peoples and look forward to engaging in the FPTA process. We believe that good relationships provide a solid foundation for addressing issues of common concern, and we look forward to working with our Aboriginal organizations and other orders of government to close the socio-economic gap facing the Aboriginal population and further Aboriginal educational opportunities."

Hon. Bill Hutchinson, Minister of First Nations and Métis Relations, Saskatchewan:

"Provincial and federal governments must be consistent in how they focus their resources as we strive to meet our goals to eliminate the gaps in educational, employment and entrepreneurial outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. We believe that strengthening relationships is the way forward. In our province, Saskatchewan, understanding and partnerships with First Nations and Métis people are key to achieving our mutual goals."

Clément Chartier, President, Métis National Council:

"The future well-being and prosperity of Métis Nation citizens is greatly tied to creating lasting economic development opportunities in Métis communities. Cooperative efforts between Métis governments and the five western-most provinces, like this working group, will help foster that economic development, benefiting not only the Métis people, but all of Canada."

Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President, Native Women's Association of Canada:

"With more than 520 confirmed cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the situation in Canada cries out for urgent action. This tragedy can no longer be ignored. We must immediately take action to address the root causes of violence against Aboriginal women. In order to be effective, any strategy created to improve the economic, educational, and life circumstances of Aboriginal peoples in Canada must begin by addressing the health and well-being of our communities. Ensuring the safety of our women and children is the first step to a brighter future. In fact, it is the first step if we, as Aboriginal peoples, are to have any kind of future at all. In our tradition, the women are the center of the family, and the community and therefore must be protected if we are to survive as a nation."

Hon. Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Aboriginal Relations, Alberta:

"I look forward to our continued discussions at the national level. They help create important links and provide insight and support for our ongoing collaboration with First Nation and Métis organizations in Alberta."

Hon. Patty Pottle, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Newfoundland and Labrador

"It gives me great pleasure to join my counterparts and Aboriginal leaders from across Canada as we come together to meet and explore tangible solutions that will improve the well-being of Aboriginal peoples throughout this country. It is important that we move forward with our dialogue among provinces, territories, the federal government and National Aboriginal Organizations to continue the process begun in Toronto as we develop national strategies to address the educational and economic development needs of Aboriginal peoples and communities. These national strategies will guide us as we address the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal peoples and communities in our jurisdictions."

Hon. Floyd Roland, Premier and Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Northwest Territories:

"The Northwest Territories is tremendously enriched by the Dene, Métis and Inuvialuit peoples who make up a large part of the fabric of our territory. Their success is vital to the future of the Northwest Territories, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to build the partnerships that will allow us to advance opportunities and choices for all Canadian Aboriginal peoples."

Hon. Louis Tapardjuk, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Nunavut:

"The signing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was a significant step forward in improving the socio-economic state of Nunavut Inuit. However, the Agreement doesn't change recent history and it doesn't level the playing field overnight. We are ready to work with all Canadians to move forward on strategies and action plans to improve the lives of Aboriginal Canadians towards full participation in Canada."

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo:

"The Assembly of First Nations is pleased that this meeting has come about so quickly following our call for such a forum at the Council of the Federation meeting in August. The focus on Education and Economic Development is an important starting point for discussions that can lead to concrete results for First Nations women and youth, as well as those living on-reserve and in urban areas. Real progress requires real partnership to identify clear targets and firm reporting mechanisms. We want this work to culminate in a First Ministers Meeting in 2010 to bring the appropriate level of priority and investment to the issues affecting First Nations. We must not be intimidated by the tasks beforeus. Each day that we delay only sets us back further. Taking action now creates a better tomorrow for all Canadians. These challenges and opportunities belong to all of us, and we look forward to making real progress in partnership with the federal and provincial/territorial governments."

Hon. Eric Robinson, Acting Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, Manitoba:

"Tackling the challenges facing Aboriginal people in education and economic development are critical for restoring health and well being to our communities."

Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier, Yukon:

"While our primary relationship is with Yukon First Nation governments, it is important that we meet and work with national Aboriginal leaders, Canada and other jurisdictions to ensure common issues are discussed and advanced at the national level. The Government of Yukon looks forward to the work this group will undertake to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal Canadians."

/NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited members of the media/

SOURCE Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs

For further information: For further information: Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs: Scott Cavan, Minister's Office, (416) 314-7395, scott.cavan@ontario.ca; Greg Flood, Communications Branch, (416) 314-9455, greg.flood@ontario.ca

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Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs

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