The Journey Together: Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
Ontario is working with Indigenous partners to address the legacy of residential schools, close gaps and remove barriers, support Indigenous culture, and reconcile relationships with Indigenous peoples. Ontario will invest more than $250 million over the next three years on programs and actions focused on reconciliation, which will be developed and evaluated in close partnership with our Indigenous partners.
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Our traditional teachings speak to us about our connection to each other as we move throughout creation, Mino Bimawdiziwin. In order for true reconciliation to happen in this time, we must acknowledge and honour this extended family relationship and our collective commitment to doing things in the best way, thinking seven generations into the future. In taking this walk together we have the knowledge to build a solid foundation for a partnership based on the highest values of respect and kindness. We must fulfill our mutual responsibilities in this spirit of unity. Elder and advisor Shelley Charles, Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation
All Canadians must now demonstrate the same level of courage and determination, as we commit to an ongoing process of reconciliation. By establishing a new and respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, we will restore what must be restored, repair what must be repaired, and return what must be returned. Excerpt from ‘What We Have Learned: Principles of Truth and Reconciliation,’ 2015
Message from the Premier
Indigenous peoples are the original occupants of this land. Europeans first traversed modern-day Ontario around 400 years ago and relied on the generosity and kindness of Indigenous people to survive and establish a permanent presence. In 1763, the British Crown officially recognized the original occupancy of Indigenous peoples with the Royal Proclamation. Early treaties were negotiated and signed with the intent of creating mutual benefits. One hundred forty-nine years ago, Canada was founded as an independent nation.
In 2016, all of this can feel distant — a past disconnected from our day-to-day lives. What happened just seven generations ago can seem to have occurred in an entirely different world. Yet we know that the past is never just the past. We know that history is always shaping our present.
For some of us, this history paved the way to our 21st century prosperity. The treaties granted us land to live on and cultivate and water to drink. The investments and inventions of previous generations created our rising standard of living and the growing guarantee of social justice. With every generation came the opportunity to build on the past and create a better life.
For Indigenous people in Ontario, this same history created a very different reality. Despite the promise of the early treaties, including the Two Row Wampum of respectful Nation to Nation relationships, Indigenous people became the target of colonial policies designed to exploit, assimilate and eradicate them. Based on racism, violence and deceit, these policies were devastatingly effective. They disempowered individuals and disenfranchised entire communities.
When Canada became an independent country in 1867, the legacy of violent colonialism only gathered momentum. From coast-to-coast-to-coast, the residential school system removed Indigenous children from their homes to systematically strip away their Indigenous languages, cultures, laws and rights. Children were physically, emotionally and sexually abused. Many died.
As a mother and grandmother, these heartbreaking stories are hard to hear. But for generations of Indigenous people in Canada, these stories were their lives. And the horrors they endured were at the hands of the very governments that had promised to be their partners. As Premier, I apologize for this past and for the harm it continues to cause in the lives of Indigenous people today.
Canada’s residential schools are closed now, but they have been closed for not even one generation. The echoes of racist and colonial attitudes that underpinned their operation are still with us. So too are the echoes of a society-wide, intergenerational effort of cultural genocide, which reverberate loudly and painfully in the lives of Indigenous people today. Across nearly every measure of a person’s quality of life and access to opportunity, there exists a disturbing gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. This is the gap created by a country that abused, betrayed and neglected its Indigenous peoples. It is a gap that swallows lives and extinguishes hope. For a long time, the voices of Indigenous peoples crying out for justice could not be heard across this yawning gulf. For a long time, Canada did not want to hear them. But Indigenous peoples are resilient. It is thanks to this resilience that we are now walking the journey of reconciliation together.
In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools finished gathering testimony from the survivors of residential schools and issued its final report (PDF). I want to thank the Commission and all the survivors who participated for helping illuminate a dark past, for honouring all those who lost their lives and for pointing the way forward. Together you have brought us to a hopeful moment in our shared history. After generations of silence, we are finally connecting this past to the injustices and realities of the present and taking actions to build a better future.
Ontario has already taken positive first steps to build partnerships based on mutual respect and shared benefits. With this report, we reiterate our commitment to continue the journey of reconciliation, through specific initiatives designed to bring meaningful change to the lives of Indigenous people and communities. We will continue to walk hand-in-hand with Indigenous partners, and build trusting, respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.
The duty owed to Indigenous partners is enshrined in our laws and in our values as Canadians. There is no more denying the past or hiding from the truth. It is time to get to work and do our part to create positive change in the lives of Indigenous peoples. And while this is our present task, we know that one day it will be history — a part of the past that shapes the world of our grandchildren and their grandchildren. With the actions we are taking together today and every day in the future, we will build a country that lives up to its laws, its values and its reputation as a force for good in the world. We will reach across generations to undo the harm caused by our past and build a society where future generations can live in peace and harmony on the land we now share.
Walking this journey together, we will not fail.
Chi miigwetch; nia:wen; marsi; thank you.
Premier of Ontario
Message from Minister Zimmer
I am so pleased to be able to join Premier Wynne and fellow ministers in sharing our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. And I am proud to say that the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs is changing its name to become the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. The new name more accurately reflects the transformations underway within our government and across the province.
Ontario regrets our country’s dark past where the residential school system tore First Nations, Métis and Inuit families apart and inflicted generations of trauma on entire communities. The residential school era is a terrible time in our collective history, and one that must never be forgotten. We now have the opportunity to come together to create lasting change through reconciliation — not only through words, but also through our actions.
By addressing the legacy of residential schools, we can ensure their terrible history is remembered. Today’s children must grow up with a shared understanding of our true history so that they may make informed decisions for our collective future together.
This document details new initiatives, approaches and partnerships, with Indigenous peoples and their leaders, designed to close gaps and remove barriers. It is part of our ongoing commitment to collaborate on improving social, economic and health outcomes for Indigenous peoples.
In supporting Indigenous culture, Ontario is working to provide the resources and space for Indigenous languages, traditions, teachings and governance to thrive.
In reconciling relationships, Ontario and Indigenous peoples must work in partnership, as we walk this journey together.
I commit to living the true intent of reconciliation by engaging with Indigenous families across the province to provide supports, so they can continue to build resilient communities, raise new generations of confident leaders, and make Ontario a place we are all proud to call home.
Chi miigwetch; nia:wen; marsi; thank you.
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Ontario’s Commitments for Reconciliation
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) final report shone a light on Canada’s residential school system, a dark chapter in our history with lasting impacts still felt by Indigenous people today. Ontario is working with Indigenous partners to address the legacy of residential schools, close gaps and remove barriers, create a culturally relevant and responsive justice system, support Indigenous culture, and reconcile relationships with Indigenous peoples. True reconciliation goes beyond the TRC's ‘Calls to Action’. The Province will continue to look to Indigenous partners for guidance and leadership.
Ontario plans to invest more than $250 million over the next three years on programs and actions focused on reconciliation, which will be developed and evaluated in close partnership with our Indigenous partners.
Understanding the Legacy of Residential Schools
New Funding: Up to $20 million over three years, including up to $1.4 million in 2016-17 to support the revitalization of the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
- Work with Indigenous partners to establish a commemorative monument in Toronto — dedicated to residential school survivors — as a site of learning, healing and reconciliation.
- Support restoration to the Mohawk Institute Residential School and work with Indigenous partners to develop an interpretation centre.
- Identify death records of “lost children” who attended residential school and contribute to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation archives, locate burial sites and repatriate remains when requested and/or provide memorial ceremonies and markers.
- Work to waive fees for Indigenous people seeking to reclaim traditional names, and honour Indigenous traditions by accommodating the use of single names.
- Address systemic racism and discrimination directed against Indigenous peoples through an Indigenous-informed Anti-Racism Strategy.
Closing Gaps and Removing Barriers
New Funding: Up to $150 million over three years, including $3.5 million in 2016-17 in life promotion support and $2.3 million in 2016-17 in new mental health and addictions supports.
- Establish up to six new or expanded Indigenous Mental Health & Addictions Treatment and Healing Centres.
- Help stop the cycle of intergenerational trauma by investing in mental health and wellness programs.
- Increase the number of licensed child care spaces and culturally relevant programming off-reserve.
- Expand child and family programs on-reserve and through Indigenous and federal partners, make supports available in more communities.
- Through recreation, based programming, work with remote high-need Indigenous communities to identify community priorities for children, youth and families.
- Support culturally based suicide prevention strategies for children and youth, and provide crisis intervention, as needed.
- Explore reclassifying First Nations/federally-operated schools to enhance collaboration between the provincially-funded education system and First Nation schools.
- Develop an action plan for responding to social emergencies in northern First Nation communities.
Creating a Culturally Relevant and Responsive Justice System
New Funding: Up to $45 million over three years, including $200,000 in 2016-17 in Gladue expansion.
- Create more victim services programs for Indigenous peoples.
- Establish an Indigenous Language Courts pilot project to help break down language barriers and increase access to justice.
- Increase funding to Community Justice Programs that focus on healing and cultural restoration.
- Develop culturally appropriate programs to provide support to Indigenous people accused of crime, including community supervision.
- Host a Gladue summit to identify service gaps in the justice system.
- Increase the number of Gladue report writers and Gladue aftercare workers.
- Enhance healing services and cultural supports for Indigenous inmates in custody and offenders under community supervision.
Supporting Indigenous Cultural Revitalization
New Funding: Up to $30 million over three years
- Develop an Indigenous Cultural Revitalization Fund that would support First Nations, Métis and Inuit projects; language, archaeology and arts activities.
- Host an Indigenous languages symposium with Indigenous partners to review current programs, identify community priorities and supports needed for Indigenous languages.
- Support youth cultural camps in Indigenous communities.
- Create a traditional medicine garden on government-owned property in Toronto.
Reconciling Relationships with Indigenous Peoples
New funding: $5 million over three years
- Lead by example and take active steps to apply a model of reconciliation on a daily basis.
- Change the name of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs to the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
- Reflect the term ‘Indigenous’ in government ministries and programs, where appropriate.
- Discourage the use of names that are considered offensive to Indigenous people in organizations funded by the government.
- Engage with Indigenous partners on approaches to enhance participation in the resource sector by improving the way resource benefits are shared.
- Work with the federal government to address the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Before Canada became a country, Indigenous peoples helped settlers survive. But relationships that began with the promise of partnership were soon set aside by actions that caused real pain and suffering to generations of Indigenous peoples. Colonialism and racism soon dominated and drove systematic attempts to wipe out Indigenous languages, culture and tradition — nothing less than cultural genocide.
Residential schools became a gruesome manifestation of these policies. For more than one hundred years, Indigenous children in Canada were forced to attend government-funded, church-run residential schools. One goal of the schools was to assimilate Indigenous people by weakening cultural and familial ties. Residential schools robbed Indigenous children of their identity and culture. Those who attended were taught from the perspective of colonial settlers who denigrated Indigenous culture and tradition. Indigenous people were left without a firm sense of their place in the world. This loss of identity was the goal. And the lived experience of many children was even darker, with thousands of children suffering from mental, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of those charged with their care.
Many never made it back home.
In Ontario, 18 schools took in children between the ages of five and 14. These institutions were in operation from the opening of the Mohawk Institute in Brantford in 1828 until the closure of the Stirland Lake High School/Wahbon Bay Academy (located in Stirland Lake) in 1991. In all, at least 462 children died while attending residential schools in Ontario and an unknown number remain listed as missing.
Ontario regrets that survivors, their children and entire communities continue to suffer. The legacy of residential schools can be seen in the youth still forced to leave their communities to continue their education, children and adults in such despair that they see taking their own lives as the only way out, Indigenous children taken into care with alarming frequency and Indigenous women who are many times more likely to suffer violence than other women.
In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was created as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, with a mandate to educate Canadians on the deplorable conditions of the residential school system, to document experiences of the survivors and their families and to guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.
In June 2015, the TRC released its Executive Summary, which included 94 recommendations, or ‘Calls to Action,’ directed to governments, churches, organizations and all Canadians. In December 15, 2015, the seven-volume TRC Final Report was released. In it, residential schools were referred to as cultural genocide.
The work of the Commission and the bravery and resilience of survivors who shared their experiences serve as an important catalyst for change, but Ontario’s reconciliation with Indigenous peoples does not begin or end with the release of the TRC's Final Report. Working with Indigenous partners, Ontario has laid the groundwork, but we know we must continue to act on the TRC Calls to Action if reconciliation is to be advanced further.
In partnership with the federal government and Indigenous communities, municipalities, the private sector and all Ontarians must move forward in partnership on the path to reconciliation. We must take action. We must address the legacy of residential schools. We must close gaps and remove barriers that Indigenous people face. We must create a justice system that is culturally relevant and responsive. We need to support Indigenous culture. We need to reconcile relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Residential school survivors, their families and communities and Indigenous leaders have worked tirelessly to preserve our shared history and change our collective future. This shared work is carried forward under the long shadow of a dark time in our province’s history, but with the hopeful light of a true commitment to first build and then walk the road to reconciliation, together.
Working with Indigenous partners, Ontario is taking action by:
- Understanding the Legacy of Residential Schools — We will ensure that Ontarians develop a shared understanding of our histories and address the overt and systemic racism that Indigenous people continue to face.
- Closing Gaps and Removing Barriers — We will address the social and economic challenges now faced by Indigenous communities after centuries of colonization and discrimination.
- Creating a Culturally Relevant and Responsive Justice System — We will improve the justice system for Indigenous people by closing service gaps and ensuring the development and availability of community-led restorative justice programs.
- Supporting Indigenous Culture — We will celebrate and promote Indigenous languages and cultures that were nearly lost after generations of Indigenous children were sent to residential schools.
- Reconciling Relationships with Indigenous Peoples — We will support the rebuilding of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through trust, understanding and respect.
Ontario plans to invest more than $250 million over the next three years on programs and actions focused on reconciliation, which will be developed and evaluated in close partnership with Indigenous partners. This is in addition to a number of initiatives already underway across government and at the federal level. This commitment represents an initial step on the journey of reconciliation. Together with Indigenous partners and the federal government, Ontario will continue to work to achieve real and measurable change for Indigenous communities, charting a path toward a brighter future for all.
Understanding the legacy of residential schools
Federally recognized residential schools in Ontario
Bishop Horden Hall
Moose Factory Island
School destroyed, cemetery
School destroyed, cemetery
School destroyed, cemetery
Cristal Lake High School
School abandoned, cemetery
School destroyed, cemetery
School destroyed, cemetery
School repurposed – Woodland Cultural Centre
School destroyed, cemetery
Sault Ste. Marie
Spanish Boys’ School
School destroyed, cemetery
Spanish Girls’ School
School destroyed, cemetery
Stirland Lake High School / Wahbon Bay Academy
Sault Ste Marie
School repurposed – part of Shingwauk Site, cemetery
In order to move forward on this journey together, we must first have a solid understanding of where we have been. That understanding must encompass residential schools themselves and the society that turned a blind eye to them over generations.
Residential schools were designed to separate children from their families, to weaken cultural and community connections, and to assimilate Indigenous peoples so that they ceased to exist as distinct social, cultural, legal and racial communities in Canada. Imagine entire communities robbed of their children, and schools that had cemeteries instead of playgrounds. Imagine a place where laughter was as rare as the sound of Indigenous languages in the hallways. Imagine being told your language and your spiritual beliefs were savage and forbidden. These are part of the legacy we must understand and address if we are to move ahead. The experiences and consequences of the residential school system harmed Indigenous cultures, communities, families and individuals and led to intergenerational trauma.
These injustices have done enormous damage not only to Indigenous people and communities, but to the very fabric of our nation. When these systemic injustices are perpetuated across generations by indifference or neglect, it undermines the very foundation of a just and equal Canada.
Working with Indigenous partners, Ontario is committed to teaching coming generations about our shared history and ensuring that survivors and communities are the ones sharing these stories. Children in Ontario must be given the opportunity to effect change and work to build a better province. This can only happen if we equip them with the truth of our entire history.
Up to $20 million over three years to address the legacy of residential schools, including up to $1.4 million in 2016-17 to support the revitalization of the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
Residential Schools Monument
Ontario will work with Indigenous organizations to establish a commemorative monument in Toronto — dedicated to residential school survivors — as a site of learning, healing and reconciliation.
Missing Children, Burials and Residential School Records
The Province will provide death and other relevant records of “lost children” who attended residential schools to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and work with the federal government and Indigenous communities to find cemeteries and burial sites on residential school properties. Remains will be returned to Indigenous communities when requested and/or memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers will be arranged.
Reclaim Indigenous names
Indigenous children were forced to take Christian or non-Indigenous names while they were attending residential schools. Ontario will work to waive fees so that Indigenous people can reclaim their traditional names. A new feature of name registration will also help parents and individuals honour Indigenous traditions by accommodating the use of single names, which would appear on provincially-issued documents such as birth and marriage certificates.
Save the Evidence: Mohawk Institute Residential School Interpretation Centre
Ontario will work with Indigenous partners toward the restoration and development of an interpretation centre, which will tell the story of the approximately 15,000 students who attended the Mohawk Institute Residential School from 1828 to 1970. Restoring one of Ontario’s oldest residential schools will help educate Ontarians about the history of residential schools.
Indigenous-Informed Anti-Racism Strategy
Ontario will engage with Indigenous communities on the development of an Anti-Racism strategy that fights racism against Indigenous people throughout Ontario. The strategy will support Indigenous-led approaches to engage youth in dialogue about racism, stereotypes and respectful engagement. In addition Ontario will develop an Indigenous public education and awareness campaign that will be aligned with the broader province-wide multi-year anti-racism public education and awareness strategy.
There are already several important initiatives and programs in Ontario that seek to address some of the legacy of residential schools. These include the development of programs so that all Ontario public service employees receive mandatory cultural competency training on Indigenous cultures, worldviews, issues and history, including treaties and residential schools.
Earlier this year, the Province released Walking Together: Ontario’s Long-Term Strategy to End Violence against Indigenous Women supported by $100 million in new funding over three years. The new strategy focuses on raising awareness of and preventing violence; providing more effective programs and community services that reflect the priorities of Indigenous leaders and communities; and improving socio-economic conditions that support healing within Indigenous communities.
With funding support from five Ontario ministries, Indigenous partners and service providers will continue to design and deliver the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy. The strategy supports culturally appropriate solutions to improve healing, health and wellness in communities across Ontario.
Ontario will also find ways to support Indigenous communities in culturally appropriate ways by engaging with them to ensure that provincial strategies meet their unique needs. For example, Ontario will engage with Indigenous partners to design culturally appropriate initiatives as part of a provincial Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) strategy.
Education remains a key component of reconciliation. Through the Initial Teacher Education Program, accredited teacher-education programs offered by Ontario’s faculties of education are required to provide mandatory Indigenous content. The Province is also working with Indigenous partners to enhance the Ontario curriculum in order to support mandatory learning about residential schools, the legacy of colonialism and the rights and responsibilities we all have to each other as treaty people. As part of the comprehensive strategy, Ontario is also working with partners to create curriculum-linked resources and develop supports that will build educator capacity.
Closing gaps and removing barriers
The legacy of the schools continues to this day. It is reflected in the significant educational, income, and health disparities between Aboriginal people and other Canadians — disparities that condemn many Aboriginal people to shorter, poorer and more troubled lives. Truth and Reconciliation Final Report, volume 4, pg. 3
- 42% of the Indigenous population
is under 24 years old
Source: National Household Survey,
2011 (Statistics Canada)
Stemming from the intergenerational trauma inflicted by residential schools and Canada’s colonial legacy, Indigenous people, young and old, face challenges most Ontarians can’t imagine. There is a glaring disparity in outcomes for Indigenous communities and the rest of Ontario. Research and lived experiences show direct links between the residential school system and the gaps Indigenous people face in their well-being, safety and success. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended making progress toward reconciliation by closing these gaps.
Ontario has made it a priority to improve social, economic and health outcomes for Indigenous peoples, by working in partnership with local communities.
Following the release of the TRC Final Report, Ontario continues to work with Indigenous partners and the federal government to develop policies and programs that reduce and eliminate these gaps and barriers.
- 5-7 times higher suicide rates
for First Nations youth
Source: Health Canada, 2006
Up to $150 million over three years to close gaps and remove barriers, including $3.5 million in 2016-17 in life promotion support and $2.3 million in 2016-17 in new mental health and addiction supports.
Life promotion initiatives
Working with First Nation communities, Ontario will support culturally based suicide prevention strategies for children and youth, and provide crisis intervention, as needed. The funding, under the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy, will support holistic response and prevention teams that focus on Indigenous approaches to suicide prevention.
Under the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy, Ontario will also increase support to Nishnawbe Aski Nation for crisis coordination through four additional coordinator positions and a flexible crisis fund when crises, such as suicides, occur.
Child care and family programs
To help promote healthy child development and support family well-being, Ontario will expand five existing child and family programs on-reserve. Working with Indigenous and federal partners to identify needs, the funding will also make more child and family programs available in more communities. Ontario will also help increase the number of off-reserve licensed child care spaces and culturally relevant programming for children and families. Programs will be delivered by urban Indigenous organizations working with municipal child care services. These investments are a step toward a broader child care and early years strategy for Indigenous communities in Ontario and are connected to the government’s vision where children and families are supported by a system of responsive, high-quality, accessible and increasingly integrated programs and services. These initiatives also align with Ontario’s approach to transform and integrate child and family programs through Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres, which include a focus on ensuring programs meet local community needs.
Indigenous mental health & addictions treatment and healing centres
In partnership with Indigenous communities and the federal government, Ontario will establish up to six new or expanded Indigenous Mental Health & Addictions Treatment and Healing Centres, both on- and off-reserve. The centres will provide care using a combination of traditional healing and clinical care.
New mental health and addictions supports
Ontario plans to invest new funding into mental health and wellness programs and services to help stop the cycle of intergenerational trauma. These investments will be guided by collaborative partnerships and active engagement with Indigenous partners, and will include the dedicated Indigenous engagement process under Phase 2 of the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. Ontario will also explore the development of a Centre of Excellence for Addictions and Mental Health in Northwestern Ontario.
Prevention initiatives for youth in remote First Nation communities
Through recreation-based programming, the Province will work with remote high-need Indigenous communities to identify community priorities for children, youth and families. Since 2014, the government has worked with community partners to develop programs that help Indigenous children and youth grow up healthy and reach their full potential. These programs are currently in Pikangikum First Nation and under development in Sandy Lake First Nation and will expand in up to two additional remote First Nation communities.
Action plan for social emergencies in remote First Nations
Working in partnership with First Nations and the federal government, Ontario will develop an action plan for remote communities, so that we are able to respond quickly to social crises in Northern First Nation communities. Ontario will host a Summit on Social Emergencies with First Nations and the federal government to help determine jurisdictional responsibilities moving forward.
Classification of First Nation schools within the Education Act
Ontario will explore the possibility of creating a new classification for First Nation/federally operated schools. This could enhance collaboration between the provincially funded education system and First Nation schools to help build greater capacity (e.g. professional development and learning resources) in First Nation schools.
Ontario is working with Indigenous partners to close the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students through programs such as Elementary Summer Learning and the Aboriginal Education Strategy. In 2015, Ontario announced $97 million in funding over three years for Indigenous post-secondary education and training. Ontario is working with Indigenous partners and post-secondary education stakeholders in developing a stand-alone Aboriginal Institutes Policy to incorporate Indigenous-owned and -controlled post-secondary institutes into Ontario’s post-secondary education and training system.
Working with Indigenous partners, Ontario is investing in affordable housing for Indigenous people living off-reserve and is committed to working with Indigenous partners to develop an Indigenous Housing Strategy. The Province is also working with the federal government to encourage increased funding for housing infrastructure on-reserve.
Ontario is delivering on its commitment to address critical health inequities and improve access to culturally appropriate health care services in Indigenous communities. The Ontario First Nations Health Action Plan, with a $222-million investment over three years, and $104.5 million in ongoing investments thereafter, will increase primary care, public health and health promotion; senior care and hospital services; and life promotion and crisis supports. While it is focused on the North, the plan includes opportunities for investments across Ontario, working with partners in key areas such as home and community care, primary care and diabetes prevention and management.
The Province also supports Aboriginal Health Access Centres that offer a blend of traditional Indigenous approaches to health and wellness, primary health care and health promotion programs in a culturally appropriate setting.
Closing the achievement gap for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and youth is a major focus of Ontario’s Indigenous Child and Youth Strategy (OICYS) across the full range of child and family services. As the Province’s approach to improving outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and youth and reducing the number of Indigenous children and youth in child protection and youth justice services, it is a whole of government framework for how to design and deliver services for young people. The shift to community-driven and -delivered, prevention-based services is supported by many of the initiatives in this report as well as by the $80-million Family Well-Being program — part of Ontario’s Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women Strategy.
Creating a culturally relevant and responsive justice system
Reconciliation should open that door to say, ‘Now is your opportunity to learn everything there is to know about us, so that your people understand.’ You don’t have to believe what we believe in. We’re not looking to take over. We’re simply looking to try to bring ourselves into some kind of balance because we’re not in balance. Iehnhotonkwas Bonnie Jane Maracle, educator and strategist, Wolf Clan, Mohawk Nation at Tyendinaga Territory
Clear links have been established between the overrepresentation of Indigenous people involved in the justice system and Indigenous communities’ experience with residential schools. Indigenous offenders feel a deep alienation behind the bars of correctional institutions just as they (or their parents or grandparents) felt inside the walls of residential schools. These institutions are places where racism is common.
In order to counter the pervasive and lasting effects of the residential schools, Ontario acknowledges that meaningful changes to the justice system are necessary. These changes require the closing of service gaps for Indigenous victims and accused through the provision of culturally relevant and appropriate services. In addition, actions must be taken that clearly recognize the value and legitimacy of Indigenous legal principles, legal systems, autonomy and cultures.
Ontario will partner with Indigenous organizations to create more victim services programs specifically for Indigenous peoples. A broader, more comprehensive approach to services for Indigenous victims will help address their unique needs and ensure that supports are more accessible.
Indigenous-specific victim services
Ontario will partner with Indigenous organizations to create more victim services programs specifically for Indigenous peoples. A broader, more comprehensive approach to services for Indigenous victims will help address their unique needs and ensure that supports are more accessible.
Expand the Indigenous Legal Principles and Systems Project
Indigenous communities have their own legal principles and systems that were disrupted as a result of colonization. These systems must be respected and revitalized, and Ontario’s legal system must adapt to incorporate Indigenous legal principles. Ontario will expand the Indigenous Legal Principles and Systems Project, including an Indigenous Language Court pilot project. Indigenous language courts may help break down language barriers that exist in Northern communities and increase access to justice. This expansion will support Indigenous communities in enhancing Indigenous voices and capacity with respect to the administration of justice.
Restorative justice programs
The provincial government will increase funding to Ontario’s nine Community Justice Programs. Community Justice Programs focus on healing and cultural restoration and provide alternatives to incarceration. Ontario will also work with Indigenous communities and organizations to pilot restorative justice programs for enforcing band bylaws in order to help make communities safer.
Expand the Gladue Program
Ontario will increase the number of Gladue report writers and Gladue aftercare workers. Ontario will also host a “Gladue Summit” with Indigenous organizations to identify service gaps and ensure consistent program delivery. The desired outcome of these initiatives is to reduce the incarceration rate of Indigenous people and increase the use of restorative justice.
Indigenous bail and remand program
Working with Indigenous communities and organizations, Ontario will develop culturally appropriate programs that provide comprehensive support to Indigenous people accused of crimes, as well as community supervision to Indigenous people released on bail. Indigenous Bail and Remand Programs will be piloted in eight different communities across the province.
Cultural supports within the correctional system
Ontario will enhance healing services and cultural supports for Indigenous inmates in custody and offenders under community supervision. Healing services and cultural supports will be designed and developed in partnership with Indigenous communities and organizations. Culturally responsive healing services and supports assist inmates and offenders in reclaiming Indigenous values and beliefs as part of a restorative process that supports reintegration and helps reduce the likelihood of future criminal activity.
Ontario continues to engage with Indigenous partners to develop options to address Indigenous overrepresentation in the correctional system, guided by the Correctional Services Transformation Strategy, which includes providing more culturally responsive programming to those in the system. As well, through the Strategy for a Safer Ontario, Ontario is working with First Nation communities to create a provincial framework for First Nation policing to ensure more equitable, sustainable and culturally responsive policing for First Nation communities.
Ontario is also working with Indigenous community partners to address the issue of overrepresentation by focusing on prevention, diversion, rehabilitation and reintegration of Indigenous youth in the justice system. Centres for Indigenous youth provide culturally responsive programming, such as healing circles and drumming programs. In 2009, the Province opened the Ge-Da-Gi Binez Youth Centre in Fort Frances. This secure facility is the first of its kind in Canada, dedicated to rehabilitating Indigenous youth in conflict with the law. Operated in partnership with Indigenous and social service agencies, programs include traditional teachings, Indigenous history, cultural ceremonies, as well as education, anger management and life skills programs.
Ontario also supports the Mee Quam Youth Residence, a 10-bed detention/custody program located in Cochrane and operated by the Ininew Friendship Centre.
Supporting Indigenous culture
“Residential schools inflicted profound injustices on Aboriginal people… [the] pattern of disproportionate imprisonment and victimization of Aboriginal people continues to this day. The continued failure of the justice system denies Aboriginal people the safety and opportunities that most Canadians take for granted. Redress to the racist and colonial views that inspired the schools, and effective and long-term solutions to the crime problems that plague too many Aboriginal communities, call for the increased use of Aboriginal Justice, based on Aboriginal laws and healing practices. Excerpt from ‘Executive Summary: Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
One of the most insidious mandates of the residential school system was the destruction of unique Indigenous cultures. In the TRC Final Report, cultural genocide is described as the “destruction of structures and practices that allow a group to continue as a group.” The Indigenous children who were forced to attend residential schools had their self-identity ripped away. Just like the hair on their heads that was cut and sheared off, languages and cultures were robbed. Without their culture, people become vulnerable. Despite the efforts of colonial governments over three centuries, the work of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities ensured their cultures survived, but those who attended residential schools lost touch with their languages and cultures and in turn could not teach their children.
Up to $30 million over three years to support Indigenous cultural revitalization.
Indigenous Cultural Revitalization Fund
Confidence in one’s abilities requires a foundation of pride and respect for one’s heritage. Indigenous youth need every opportunity to learn about and embrace their proud heritage and cultural traditions — opportunities robbed from many of their parents and grandparents through the residential school system. The Fund will support cultural activities in Ontario’s Indigenous communities, including on-reserve and in urban centres, with the goals of revitalizing cultural practices, raising awareness of the vitality of Indigenous cultures in Ontario and promoting reconciliation. The Fund will help Indigenous communities and organizations to deliver cultural programming and services, as well as build relationships with non-Indigenous audiences and institutions. It will focus on community-driven projects, especially those that connect children, youth, families and Elders in order to build community cohesiveness, well-being and identity.
Support for Indigenous languages
Language is the foundation of culture. Indigenous peoples have a strong tradition of oral histories that must be supported by a new respect for, and understanding of, Indigenous languages. This includes hosting an Indigenous languages symposium with Indigenous partners and educational stakeholders to review current programs, determine gaps and identify community priorities and the supports needed to support Indigenous languages.
The symposium would provide Indigenous partners and educational stakeholders with the opportunity to discuss the role and mandate of an Indigenous Languages Secretariat, which could lead to an Indigenous Languages Revitalization Strategy and fund initiatives related to language revitalization.
Youth cultural camps
Ontario will support cultural camps in Indigenous communities that build youth leadership and promote awareness of traditional knowledge and languages through daily hands-on activities.
The Province will work with Indigenous partners to create a medicine garden on government-owned property in Toronto. This outdoor space will provide traditional medicines for ceremonial purposes, an expanded learning environment for members of the Ontario public service and space for Indigenous ceremonies for staff and visitors.
Recognizing the importance of sports in developing leadership skills and self-confidence, the Community Aboriginal Recreation Activator initiative brings sports, recreation and physical activity programs to remote and isolated First Nation communities. As well, Ontario is supporting the Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario to host the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, the largest sporting and cultural gathering of Indigenous peoples in North America.
Ontario also supports Right to Play’s Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program. With partners in 49 First Nation communities and urban Aboriginal organizations across Ontario, the program delivers tailored programming that is safe, fun, educational and culturally appropriate.
Indigenous cultures must continue to play a central role in both educating the wider population and building community. The first provincial Culture Strategy will soon be released and Ontario is engaging with Indigenous communities about their cultural priorities. The strategy will identify goals and actions to support Indigenous arts and culture.
Reconciling relationships with Indigenous peoples
There was a time when our people were criminalized, abused and ridiculed when speaking Anishinaabemowin but our language survived. We shouldn’t forget that. Use it as strength to go forward. Susan Blight, language activist, academic and artist, Couchiching First Nation, Treaty #3 territory
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission described the reconciliation process as a means to rebuild relationships. Healthy relationships require respect, honesty and a strong understanding of identity. This has not always been the case with Ontario and Indigenous peoples.
Ontario will take action to support reconciliation province-wide, work in collaboration with Indigenous partners and acknowledge the Crown’s unique relationships with Indigenous peoples.
Ontario’s new commitments
Up to $5 million over three years to support reconciling relationships with Indigenous peoples.
Leading by example
To demonstrate Ontario’s long-term commitment and efforts towards reconciliation, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs will become the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. The Ontario Public Service will also take active steps to apply a model of reconciliation in its daily business:
- reflecting the term ‘Indigenous’ in government ministries and programs, where appropriate
- acknowledging treaties within Minister’s statements, the Public Service Oath of Office and government-issued documents
- working with partners to determine how the advice of youth and elders could be incorporated into government decision making
- discouraging the use of names that are considered offensive to Indigenous people in organizations funded by the government and
- translating government documents into Indigenous languages where feasible
Resource benefit and resource revenue sharing opportunities
Ontario will engage with Indigenous partners on approaches to close socio-economic gaps and enhance participation in the resource sector by improving the way resource benefits are shared with Indigenous communities. This work will consider how to advance resource benefit-sharing opportunities, including resource revenue sharing in the forestry and mining sectors.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Many of the principles reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are consistent with Ontario’s approach to Indigenous relations and reconciliation, which is rooted in a commitment to establish and maintain constructive, co-operative relationships based on mutual respect that lead to improved opportunities for all Indigenous peoples. Ontario will work in partnership with Canada and Indigenous partners as the federal government moves forward on its national plan to implement UNDRIP, and will take a strong, supportive and active role in considering policy options to address UNDRIP.
Strong national partnerships
In recent years, Ontario has benefitted from the support of Indigenous partners to take a strong national leadership role on issues of importance to Indigenous people. Ontario supported the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and with its 10-point plan, joined with partners to call for a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
Ontario is encouraged by new efforts by the federal government to revitalize its relationship with Indigenous leaders and communities. We need to work with federal and Indigenous partners to build on these efforts to make real change in the lives of Indigenous people. Stronger partnerships must lead to real results that help end violence against Indigenous women, improve health care and education and lead to a greater understanding of the important role of treaties in our country’s history.
Last summer, the Chiefs of Ontario and the Government of Ontario signed a historic Political Accord to guide the relationship between First Nations and the Province. The Accord affirms that First Nations have an inherent right to self-government; that the relationship between Ontario and the First Nations must be based on respect for this right; and that the parties are committed to working together on issues of mutual interest. Ontario is also working through its Treaty Strategy to facilitate dialogue between Ontarians and Indigenous partners on revitalizing treaty relationships and promoting public awareness of treaties. These actions build on Ontario’s efforts to reconcile relationships with Indigenous leaders and communities.
Through the Ontario-Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Framework Agreement signed in 2008 and renewed in 2014, Ontario and the MNO agreed to advance reconciliation between the Crown and the Métis people through actions including the Métis Voyageur Development Fund, announced with MNO in 2011; the declaration of 2010 as the Year of the Métis by the Ontario Legislature; and the passage of the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act in the Legislature in December 2015.
Signed in 2015, the Ontario-Anishinabek Nation Master Education Framework Agreement shows the commitment of Ontario and Anishinabek First Nations to support First Nation students’ education in both Anishinabek First Nation schools and in provincially funded schools.
This is what I have seen in my lifetime. From 1950, when we weren’t allowed to do anything and couldn’t even get off the reserve, to 2015, everything has been changing and going in a good direction. I believe all of Canadians are going toward the good life; I think they’ve been very influenced by Indigenous people, particularly in the last 40 years, on questions of the environment, on questions of their humanity, on questions of democracy…. It is greater and greater democracy that is going to create the conditions for the good life in this country. So, we’ve been heading that way for a long time. We just have a lot of issues to clear up; there’s a lot of old shoes in the closet. Sto:lo/Métis Elder and author Lee Maracle
Ontario has begun a journey of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples — one that we are taking together. For too many years, governments stood by as abuse was committed, and as policies designed to assimilate Indigenous peoples were pursued. We understand that these actions marginalized Indigenous communities and created gaps and barriers in social, economic, education and health outcomes still felt today.
The attempted cultural genocide that is the legacy of residential schools has produced debilitating intergenerational consequences. It is a dark chapter in our shared history. We cannot change any of that past, but by unearthing and truly understanding its impact, we give ourselves the power to change the future.
Thankfully, we have the opportunity to make change. Through ongoing work, as well as new commitments outlined in this document, Ontario is determined to address the ongoing impacts of residential schools, close gaps, remove barriers, create a culturally relevant and responsive justice system, support Indigenous culture and reconcile relationships with Indigenous peoples. This is another step forward toward reconciliation, not the end of the journey. There is much work to do, together with Indigenous partners and all Ontarians, to make meaningful change.
Ontario is committed to publicly report on progress on these initiatives. Specifically, the Province will submit available information related to improving outcomes for Indigenous peoples in the areas of health, employment, education and justice to the National Council for Reconciliation — based on a Call to Action made by the TRC.
Ontario has already taken preliminary steps in response to the TRC's report to establish a solid foundation built on ongoing partnerships and understanding with Indigenous peoples. We are working with Indigenous partners on policies and programs that reflect the spirit and intentions of the TRC. We are taking steps to ensure Indigenous voices are heard within government, including in policy and decision-making.
Now is the time to come together and to acknowledge the hard truths of our past. Now is the time to renew our commitment to live together on this land based on principles of trust, mutual respect and shared benefits.
Through Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, we reaffirm our commitment to truly acknowledge our dark past, to support survivors, and to give voice to communities impacted by the residential school legacy. This is a journey to reconciliation that we must walk together, with the federal government as partners and with Indigenous partners guiding the way. This, too, can be a part of our ongoing legacy.