Ontario is committed to working towards government-to-government relationships with First Nation and Métis communities, and understands the importance of engaging in dialogue. This approach is not symbolic: it is necessary for strengthening respectful relations and fundamental to ensuring that services and supports best meet the needs of Indigenous peoples and communities. More and more, supports, services, and programs are co-designed and co-implemented with Indigenous partners. In some cases, these co-developed initiatives are formed with a transfer of authority to Indigenous partners as the goal.

There is much work to do to in order to repair broken relationships caused by generations of mistrust, disappointment, attempts at assimilation and the systemic racism that exists. By setting the terms of relationships in formal agreements and by moving forward together with real action, we have begun this work.

Agreements towards relationship building

In recent years, Ontario has signed a number of formal relationship agreements with First Nation and Métis organizations across the province to solidify our commitment to working in a better way with Indigenous peoples.

In August 2015, the Chiefs-in-Assembly and the government of Ontario signed an historic First Nations Political Accord, establishing a formal bilateral relationship, anchored by the treaty relationship and the recognition of First Nations’ inherent right to self-government.

The Political Accord affirmed a commitment by Ontario and First Nations’ leadership to continue to work together in areas of common interest and mutual priorities.

An example of this in action is Leaders in the Legislature, an annual event where key issues are addressed through a series of roundtable discussions. The open dialogue and collaborative approach continues to foster and strengthen the government-to-government relationship.

While we recognize that progress is being made on resource revenue sharing and other important issues, due in part to the 2015 Political Accord, we also must acknowledge that we cannot let our guard down or become complacent in addressing the outstanding concerns, but must work together and strengthen our resolve to continue down our shared path. We look forward to the next decade and even greater progress with MIRR in order to finally secure our rightful place in Ontario.

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day

In September 2017, the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) signed a terms of reference with Ontario. This agreement affirms the government-to-government relationship and highlights both parties’ mutual commitment to work together to give AIAI communities more control over child welfare decisions and to improve health care and housing.

In August 2017, 23 participating First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation, the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body and Ontario signed the historic Master Education Agreement at the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. The agreement supports Anishinabek student success and well-being in the Anishinabek Education System and the provincially funded education system.

In order to sign the Master Education Agreement, a First Nation must first ratify at the community level and sign the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement with Canada, under which Canada recognizes participating Anishinabek First Nations’ jurisdiction over primary, elementary and secondary education. This agreement between Canada and the 23 participating First Nations was also signed in August 2017.

The Master Education Agreement is essential for the implementation of the Anishinabek Education System: the first education sectorial self-government in Ontario and the largest in Canada. The Anishinabek Education System is designed by Anishinabek First Nations for Anishinabek students and supports the advancement of Anishinaabe language, culture history and perspectives.

In response to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Declaration of Health and Public Health Emergency in 2016, Ontario, Canada and Nishnawbe Aski Nation formed the Joint Action Table and signed the Charter of Relationship Principles Governing Health System Transformation.

The charter sets out common objectives and the intention of the partners to work collaboratively to design innovative solutions to transform the delivery of healthcare, and support First Nations-driven health systems throughout Nishnawbe Aski Nation member communities.

In March 2016, Nipissing First Nation and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to sustainably manage the Lake Nipissing walleye fishery.

The MOU supports the recovery of the walleye population and the implementation of Nipissing’s Fisheries Law. In 2018, the Institute of Public Administration Canada recognized the collaborative efforts between Ontario and Nipissing First Nation with a Gold Award.

In May 2014, Ontario announced a commitment to improve socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples living in urban communities.

In response, The Urban Indigenous Action Plan was co-developed in partnership with the Métis Nation of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres and the Ontario Native Women’s Association, with input from urban Indigenous communities across Ontario.

This significant co-development effort focuses on providing guidance across government, and advice for broader sectors which service Indigenous peoples, on how to engage and develop policies and programs which meet the needs of local urban Indigenous communities. The plan is targeted for release in 2018.

In April 2014, Ontario and the Métis Nation of Ontario renewed a five-year Framework Agreement to facilitate the recognition and advancement of Métis people in Ontario, and to provide a forum for discussion on matters of mutual concern.

First signed in 2008, the renewed agreement reinforces a commitment to work together to improve the well-being of Métis children, families and communities.

Supporting Indigenous postsecondary education

As a result of a co-creation process between the province and Indigenous Institutes sector, Ontario passed the Indigenous Institutes Act. The historic legislation recognizes Indigenous Institutes as a pillar of the postsecondary education system. This legislation transfers functions of managing a postsecondary education system, including approving and granting postsecondary credentials, to the Indigenous Institutes sector.

Indigenous Institutes play an important role in the postsecondary education system in Ontario by providing accessible education and training to Indigenous learners in culturally safe learning environments.

Advancing skills training

The Aboriginal Skills Advancement Program delivered by Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services helps improve access for graduates to employment opportunities related to the development of chromite and mineral deposits in the Ring of Fire area. The program helps students get their high school diploma and the academic credits they need to pursue college, university or skilled trades training.

Strengthening the treaty relationship

Ontario and Indigenous partners across the province have worked diligently together towards building a better, more responsive action in our shared relationship efforts. The ministry works directly with partners at the Political Territorial Organization level through existing tables and broader-level engagement with Indigenous communities and Indigenous organizations to build and support revitalizing the treaty relationship. The ministry held a series of forums with a focus on the treaty relationship that included more than 300 participants. These discussions were an opportunity for Ontario to listen to diverse Indigenous voices speaking to their knowledge and understanding of treaties. These efforts move us forward on the path to respecting treaty relationships so that we can ensure the treaties benefit everyone while remaining responsive to modern-day realities.

The ministry’s Treaty Strategy facilitates treaty awareness, constructive engagement and revitalization of treaty relationships. It also promotes better opportunities and improved outcomes for Indigenous peoples.

As part of the effort, Ontario worked with partners to develop an education and awareness campaign. It includes:

  • The Anishinabek Nation’s high school treaty kit designed as a teaching resource for Grades 9 to 12.
  • A First Nations and Treaties map of Ontario. More than 11,000 copies of the map have been delivered to schools and the general public.
  • Treaties Recognition Week, a week-long event to be held every November. This initiative passed in the Ontario legislature in May 2016 and responds to the TRC’s Calls to Action for governments to raise awareness of treaties, assimilative laws and policies aimed at the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous histories.

There is a long history of treaty making between First Nations and the British Crown in Ontario, from 1701 to the present day (Algonquin land claim). Ontario is unique in Canada for the number and variety of treaties between First Nations and the Crown, with 46 treaties and land purchases covering the province.

In November 2017, there were 310 Living Library events in schools across the province. The Living Library program works with educators to bring treaty presentations into classrooms and libraries.

Ontario will be expanding Living Library events to more schools and communities throughout the province.

It’s important for people to know that treaties involve more than one partner; that’s the core principle whether we’re talking about older treaties or modern ones, whether they are in the south or in the far north.

Peter Ittinuar, the first Inuk Member of Parliament and Living Library presenter

More information on treaties is available by visiting ontario.ca/treaties.