First Nations issues could affect outcomes of key Ontario ridings

    TORONTO, Sept. 30 /CNW/ - As Ontario emerges as a key battleground in
determining the next Parliament, First Nations issues, according to Ontario
Regional Chief Angus Toulouse, have the potential to affect results on
Election Day.
    "Whether it's resolving land claims fairly, addressing First Nation
interests in resource development, or simply supporting the rights of all to
clean drinking water, safe housing, basic infrastructure and schooling, there
are critical economic issues at stake for all Ontarians."
    Ontario Regional Chief, Angus Toulouse, was joined today by Grand Chiefs
and Chiefs comprising the Ontario First Nation Political Confederacy to
address specific concerns and appeal for direct action and consideration in
the remaining days of the campaign.
    No where in this province do people suffer the consequences of Government
inaction and failed policy efforts more than in First Nation communities. When
you combine this reality with the fact that there are at least 10 ridings in
Ontario with a significant First Nation population and many of those ridings
were won by a very slim majority in 2006, First Nation interests may factor
into this election more than ever before.
    "Just as we have been ignored in the past, politicians now seem blind to
the opportunity that engaging our people in solutions for the future
presents", commented Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. "Not dealing with First
Nation issues, not addressing the clear obligations to consult and accommodate
First Nations interests will cost Ontario a great deal".
    "It is really frustrating because our communities, with a huge youthful
population should be the key consideration of Canada's economic plans for the
future. Yet, with a funding base that declines every year and results in far
less on average for every First Nation child for basic programs such as
education, our people can not be positioned to be part of the solution and
part of the future they deserve." Regional Chief Toulouse went on to say that
"rising rates of crime and suicide among the youth are a direct consequence of
the lack of opportunity our youth can access. We, as First Nation leaders, are
grappling with these challenges every day and we need the governments to do
their part - to ensure fairness first and foremost and join us in building
healthy and prosperous communities in the future."
    The First Nation leadership concluded by encouraging all candidates to
consider First Nation issues in the remaining days of the campaign. Moreover,
"we ask all Canadians to reflect on the value of fairness and the requirements
for future opportunity as they engage candidates and make choices on
October 14, 2008."
    First Nations have constitutionally protected rights that recognize them
as one of the founding peoples of Canada and they deserve to be respected.
Canada cannot make progress on our issues without us and we are seeking a
working partnership with whoever forms the next government.
    In the final days of the campaign, First Nations leaders hope that the
national debates include consideration of First Nation issues. Solid
commitments to both the long-term need for genuine reconciliation as well as
immediate relief for those communities, in particular in the remote and
northern communities, who face ever worsening conditions and escalating costs,
are needed.

    The Chiefs of Ontario represents 133 First Nation communities located
within the Province of Ontario. The Chiefs of Ontario is the coordinating
office providing a unified voice and political leadership on regional,
provincial and national priorities affecting First Nation people. Political
organizations comprising the Chiefs of Ontario include Nishnawbe-Aski Nation,
the Anishinabek Nation/Union of Ontario Indians, Grand Council Treaty No. 3,
Association of Iroquois & Allied Indians and Independent First Nations.

For further information:

For further information: Roger Jones, Policy Advisor, (613) 327-6736

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Chiefs of Ontario

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