Ontario Regional Chief welcomes Residential Schools apology; Calls for increased investments in education and housing

    TORONTO, Oct. 17 /CNW/ - Yesterday the Federal Government presented a
Speech from the Throne to open the 2nd session of the 39th Parliament. This
Throne Speech represents the second for the Harper Government since taking
power in January 2006.
    Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse indicated that there were a handful
of references to the First Nations population in the Speech, some of which
were actually re-announced initiatives such as the intention to table
legislation on specific claims, and to improve access to safe drinking water
for First Nations.
    The Regional Chief did point out that there were a few new commitments in
the document including the intention of the Federal Government to issue an
apology to close the tragic chapter relating to the Indian Residential Schools
experience. "The announcement that the Prime Minister, on behalf of the
Government, will make a statement of apology to former students and their
families for the Indian Residential Schools experience and its tragic
consequences is very welcomed and certainly long overdue" stated Regional
Chief Angus Toulouse.
    The Throne Speech also indicated the Government's intention to
re-introduce legislation to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights
Act. In the previous session of Parliament, First Nations opposed the former
Bill C-44 and received the support of the majority of the Parliamentary
Aboriginal Affairs Committee. "I want to be very clear that First Nations
leaders support access to human rights for their people. But what First
Nations are saying is that the repeal of section 67 must be well planned and
take into account the administrative and financial capacity that First Nations
will require to deal with situations that may result from the repeal of this
section" said Chief Toulouse. He pointed out that the decision of the
Parliamentary Aboriginal Affairs Committee calling for a halt to the proposed
Bill pending sufficient opportunities for dialogue with First Nations supports
the message that First Nations have relayed to Government.
    Regional Chief Toulouse expressed support for the announcement to foster
partnerships to help Aboriginals get the skills and training to take advantage
of existing and future job opportunities. "This is an argument that First
Nations have been making for years. We have a very youthful population that
represents huge potential for meeting the future labour force needs in Canada
well into the future" said Chief Toulouse. Although he conceded the
announcement is vague the Regional Chief indicated that First Nations will
continue to advocate for progress in this area now that the Government has
made this commitment.
    The Regional Chief emphasized the need for the Federal Government to work
collaboratively with First Nations on the issues raised in the Throne Speech,
as well as others that are of priority to First Nations. "The likelihood of
success in addressing the many challenges that we face will exponentially
increase if First Nations have an opportunity to jointly develop policies and
legislation with Government. Government developing policies unilaterally and
then presenting them to First Nations does not work. The old way of doing
business has been unequivocally denounced as ineffective and at worst, harmful
to First Nations" stated Chief Toulouse. The Regional Chief indicated that if
this Government truly wants to address First Nations living conditions
significant investment will be required in education, housing and economic

For further information:

For further information: Pam Hunter, Policy Advisor, (416) 597-1266 or
(613) 203-3233

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Chiefs of Ontario

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