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In the Spirit of Reconciliation: Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation’s first 10 years

Learn about our efforts to build strong relationships and achieve positive change with Indigenous communities over the past 10 years.

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Message from the Premier

I am honoured to recognize the important work accomplished since the creation of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, now the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and the great strides the ministry has made in its first decade of existence towards building a better today and a brighter tomorrow for First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples across the province. I join in celebrating this milestone not only as Premier, but also as a former minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

It is sometimes said that it takes much time to realize positive societal change but, in reflecting on the history and accomplishments of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, I recognize that a great deal of good can be brought about in the space of only 10 years. For the ministry, it has been a decade marked by an unprecedented level of engagement with Indigenous peoples and by numerous great moments, among them the signing of a historic new Political Accord to guide the relationship between First Nations and the province, and the release of The Journey Together: Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, a framework for bringing meaningful change to the lives of Indigenous peoples and communities.

The work of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation – and its collaborative efforts with government ministries and with Indigenous peoples and their leaders – has allowed the province to enter a new era of Ontario-Indigenous relations. I believe it is imperative that we sustain the momentum that the ministry has generated over the past decade, and that we continue to achieve real and positive change with Indigenous communities.

I offer Minister Zimmer, ministry staff and First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners my warmest congratulations on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

Kathleen Wynne
Premier

Message from the Minister

As we mark the first decade of a standalone ministry devoted to Indigenous issues, it is important to look back, take stock and rededicate ourselves.

In 2007, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs was established in response to recommendations from the Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry following the tragic dispute at Ipperwash Provincial Park. The report called for the creation of a standalone ministry dedicated to Aboriginal affairs that acknowledged the need for respectful relationships between the government of Ontario and Indigenous peoples.

At the time, there was little recognition of the true history of Canada or acknowledgement of the systemic barriers and racism Indigenous peoples face. Until very recently, Ontario schools did not adequately teach students the impacts of colonization, including efforts to assimilate and eradicate Indigenous peoples – the federal Indian Act and Indian Residential Schools being significant elements of this approach – or the legacy these actions continue to have today.

This has started to change over the last decade. Several initiatives have heightened all Canadians’ consciousness of Indigenous issues, with the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, perhaps, having the largest impact. Its 94 Calls to Action provide a roadmap for governments, institutions, and individuals to make meaningful changes.

In 2016, the ministry’s name was changed to demonstrate the importance of reconciliation. Reconciliation is a journey and is based on building respectful relationships and taking collaborative action. The work that we have done together, so far, can only be seen as a start as we continue to work with Indigenous partners and all Ontarians on these efforts.

During my five years as minister, I am proud to share that I have visited nearly every First Nation community in the province. I have paddled with Métis leaders and young people along lakes and rivers. I have met with Inuit organizations and community members. I have learned about the distinctive experiences of Indigenous peoples in urban areas. My ministry and I take our responsibilities very seriously, and embrace this work in a manner that values the unique histories, experiences, contributions and challenges of all Indigenous peoples.

To all who have played a part in the ministry’s history, to all who have enriched us with your wisdom and experience, you have my gratitude, and the commitment of this ministry to capitalize on the momentum we have built together to achieve even more in the next decade to come.

David Zimmer
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Message from the Deputy Minister

As deputy minister, my vision is to work with Indigenous governments and other partners to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in Ontario, from now towards the seventh generation. We do this by recognizing the impacts of colonialism and changing the course of history, remaining in step with Indigenous communities and peoples.

This report highlights the work of the ministry in its first decade developing and maintaining important relationships with Indigenous partners, and the role we have played in leading reconciliation on behalf of the government of Ontario.

But there is much more work to be done. To get to a place that Indigenous peoples recognize as reconciliation requires a sustained, collaborative effort. As public servants and engaged citizens, we must continue to ask ourselves: are relationships and partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples improving? Are Indigenous governments supported to ensure they can create the foundation for their people to enjoy the same benefits as non-Indigenous Canadians? Are we adequately addressing barriers that Indigenous peoples continue to run up against?

This last question is particularly motivating to me in the context of Indigenous peoples accessing and fully benefiting from provincial government services and supports, as well as being given the space to design and create their own.

The challenges before us are longstanding, complex, and structural, and stem from the collective impact of generations of harmful policies. To provide the responses to these immediate and longer-term challenges, comprehensive, cross-government actions are required. With the needs of Indigenous peoples and communities in the far north being distinct from those in more southern or urban settings, unique geographic circumstances also need to be considered.

We are just at the beginning of the work that must get done. The brave actions of Indigenous peoples, communities, organizations, and individuals and governments, have set us on the right path forward.

Moving towards reconciliation will be the collective sum of our individual actions and, big or small, we all have roles and responsibilities to undertake. I challenge my colleagues at the ministry and throughout government to reflect on the work of the past decade and consider what more we can achieve.

In friendship,

Deborah Richardson
Deputy Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Updated: May 02, 2022
Published: March 29, 2018