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Indigenous leaders react to federal cabinet appointments

Nishnawbe Aski Nation says it has 'high expectations' that its priorities will be addressed

OTTAWA — Now that the cabinet has been named, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler are calling on federal ministers to collaborate with First Nations on issues that are important to them.

"We expect that this government will begin immediately to continue the work to create systemic change," Fiddler said on Wednesday in a statement issued on behalf of the NAN executive council.

Archibald said the Chiefs of Ontario will reach out to ministers in new portfolios "to create new relationships and build on positive relations already established with the federal government.".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the Indigenous Services portfolio to an MP from Quebec, Marc Miller.

The post was previously held by Seamus O'Regan, who was moved to Natural Resources.

Fiddler stated that O'Regan was committed to advancing many of NAN's priorities, and said he looked to Miller to accelerate progress on First Nations' issues.

"NAN members have high expectations of this government to advance priorities in health care, education, and infrastructure to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and the rest of Canada," Fiddler added.

He also offered congratulations to Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu, who was moved to the Health portfolio from Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

In the statement, NAN outlined nine priorities it wants to engage the government on:

  •  Remoteness Quotient – Implementing the Remoteness Quotient to ensure funding for First Nations accounts for the true costs of services in rural and remote First Nations.
  • Choose Life – Making Choose Life a permanent program and ensuring Canada’s definition of Jordan’s Principle fully addresses the findings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
  • Mental Health & Addictions - Providing culturally appropriate mental health and addiction services within NAN First Nations to begin the transformation of mental wellness care for our citizens.
  • Environment & Climate Change - Recognizing the climate emergency in NAN territory and its impact on Treaty and inherent rights.
  • Child Welfare – Recognizing First Nation jurisdiction over children and their wellbeing.
  • Health Transformation – Supporting the transformation of the health care system away from the imposed colonial system to allow for equitable access to health for all NAN citizens, especially those living in remote First Nations.
  • Education Transformation – Continuing to support and work on the agreements made with NAN through the signing of the Education Jurisdiction Agreement-in-Principle.
  • NAN Fire and Emergency Management Service – Funding to develop a NAN-wide emergency response to wildfires, extreme weather, and other crises that affect community health and safety and forced evacuations.
  • Infrastructure – Funding allocations to allow for full operation and maintenance for on-reserve infrastructure.
Archibald congratulated a number of cabinet appointees, including Indigenous Services Minister Miller and returning minister Caroline Bennett of Crown and Indigenous Relations.
"We call upon this government, again, to work in full partnership with the Chiefs of Ontario on addressing socio-economic priorities," she said.
Archibald said the renewed relationship between First Nations and Ottawa will start off properly if First Nations are at the decision-making table, where she said they can take the lead in creating and implementing community-centred approaches to issues.