January 11, 2016

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Main Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Wynne:

It has been an honour to continue my work as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Ontario’s collaborative approach with Indigenous leaders and communities is creating jobs and culturally appropriate services for First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples.

In August 2015, Ontario and First Nations, represented by the Chiefs of Ontario, signed a new political accord. It creates a formal bilateral relationship framed by the recognition of the treaty relationship and First Nations’ inherent right to self-government. Through the accord, we continue to build and repair relationships with Indigenous communities and improve outcomes.

The following is an update on priorities set out in the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs mandate letter:

Improving Indigenous Outcomes

  • We launched the Aboriginal Economic Development Fund in 2014, providing grants to Indigenous communities and organizations to build economic development capacity, support skills training and improve access to financing for Indigenous business and community projects. We also continue to promote Métis resource-based entrepreneurs and businesses through the Métis Voyageur Development Fund.
  • Our Aboriginal Procurement Program supports businesses and communities by increasing opportunities for Indigenous companies to do business with the government.
  • The Urban Aboriginal Action Plan aims to improve socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples living in cities. In 2014-15, we partnered with urban-based Indigenous communities in North Bay and Barrie to support community-driven research and projects to inform community development models. In 2015, we supported our action plan partners to lead engagement across urban communities and hosted a provincial urban Aboriginal forum to inform policy and program development.
  • We are working with the Ministry of Education to improve outcomes for Indigenous learners, including closing achievement gaps and increasing graduation rates. This includes the signing of the Master Education Framework Agreement, which was signed in November 2015. The framework outlines the principles, processes and topics for the negotiation of a Master Education Agreement to support the implementation of an Anishinabek Education System, as part of a self-government agreement negotiated between the Anishinabek Nation and Canada.
  • We have worked with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in its partnership with First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders to develop an Aboriginal Children and Youth Strategy. It will enable community-driven, culturally appropriate supports for Aboriginal children and youth.
  • We are working with the Ontario Women’s Directorate and Aboriginal partners on the Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls to develop a long-term strategy.
  • Last February, I joined you and Cabinet colleagues at the National Roundtable on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls. Ontario led the way with 10 proposed actions, including a public awareness campaign and a socio-economic action plan.
  • The Remote Electrification Readiness Program was launched by the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs in 2014 with funding for three years. Ontario is investing in four projects over two years (2015-17) to help prepare diesel-dependent First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario to connect to the power grid, promoting economic growth and a cleaner environment.

Sharing Lands and Resources

  • We continue to work across government to ensure that Indigenous peoples share in the benefits of natural resources, and are engaged in resource-related economic development. We are working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on forest-sector resource revenue-sharing pilots. Resource revenue and benefits sharing is a priority for partners and our government, and was identified as an area of mutual interest in the recent political accord.
  • We are also supporting the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and First Nation communities on Ring of Fire negotiations. Ontario and the Matawa-member First Nations signed a framework agreement to move forward with a negotiation process for a community-based regional approach to development.

Moving Forward on Land Claims and Treaty Awareness

  • We continue to settle land claims in a timely manner. Four land claim settlement agreements were settled in 2015: Windy Point Reserve Claim, Chapleau Ojibwe First Nation treaty land entitlement claim, Rainy River First Nations flooding claim, and Pic Mobert land and larger land base. The Chapleau Cree First Nation treaty land entitlement claim has also been initialed.
  • The Algonquin land claim reached a new milestone when the agreement-in-principle was initialed in June 2015.
  • We have moved forward with a treaty strategy that promotes constructive engagement with First Nation communities, revitalizing treaty relationships to facilitate improved socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples. We have supported and launched campaigns with partners to increase public awareness about treaties and improve the elementary and secondary curriculum in this area.
  • We signed a milestone Treaty Table Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Ontario legislature with Mushkegowuk Council in November 2015 that will lead to greater economic opportunity and enable strong, sustainable and self-sufficient Mushkegowuk communities.
  • We opened new ceremony meeting rooms or “gathering rooms” in our Toronto offices in October 2015. The space is part of Ontario’s ongoing efforts to strengthen relationships with Indigenous partners, a key part of the government’s treaty strategy. It will also provide Ontario Public Service staff with an opportunity to learn about First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and traditions.

Engaging the Federal Government

  • In April, Ontario proposed a Drinking Water Action Plan to the federal government to ensure access to clean drinking water on First Nations reserves. The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change will continue to work with the federal government and Indigenous leadership to implement the plan, ensuring it includes measurable, achievable targets.
  • We have made a formal recommendation to the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, that a trilateral table with Canada, Ontario and First Nations in the province be convened as soon as possible to identify and implement solutions.
  • We are also working with provinces, territories and National Aboriginal Organizations through the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group on priority topics including education, economic development, housing, emergency management, and ending violence.
  • We look forward to working with the new federal government to build stronger relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to improve socio-economic outcomes and support the overall goal of reconciliation. We have identified key areas of interest where we can work together along with Indigenous partners in the near future.

In addition to these initiatives, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs also fulfilled a commitment to explore the development of provincial legislation that recognizes the Métis Nation of Ontario’s corporate structure. The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services worked collaboratively with the Métis Nation of Ontario in the spring of 2015 to identify components of this legislation. I am pleased to inform you that the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act, 2015 was passed by the legislature on December 9, 2015.

Finally, taking action on the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, released on December 15, 2015, is a priority for my ministry. Since June 2015, we have been carefully reviewing the recommendations and coordinating across ministries to shape our government-wide response. The commission has provided a path for reconciliation, which includes remembrance, actions to close gaps in outcomes, building culturally sensitive and community-based services, and working in partnership with First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Ontario is leading by example and working in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit leaders and organizations, as well as with the new federal government, to build Ontario up for every person in the province.

Thank you for your continued leadership and passion on this very important file.

Sincerely,

David Zimmer signature

David Zimmer
Minister

Results achieved

Mandate Letter Commitment Progress to Date
As Minister of Aboriginal Affairs responsible for leading strategic Indigenous policy for Ontario, you will continue to lead cross-government initiatives that strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities and improve outcomes for Indigenous peoples — and, in turn, for all Ontarians.
  • In August 2015, the Premier and Ontario Regional Chief Day signed a political accord committing Ontario and First Nations to work together on common interests.
  • In December 2015, Ontario worked collaboratively to pass the Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act.
  • The act recognizes the Métis Nation of Ontario’s unique democratic nature and allows it to operate more effectively under existing provincial corporate law.
  • Action on the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, released in December 2015, is a priority. The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (MAA) is reviewing the recommendations, coordinating across ministries and will engage Indigenous partners for a government-wide response.
To advance this work, you will develop options to increase Indigenous voices in decision-making across government and further Ontario’s efforts to build constructive, co-operative relationships with Indigenous peoples.
  • In November 2015, MAA and Chiefs of Ontario facilitated a leaders in the legislature event that brought Cabinet ministers and First Nation leadership together to discuss key priorities.
  • The Premier held the annual meeting with Aboriginal leadership and the minister attended assemblies with Political/Territorial organizations. Several ministers visited Indigenous communities.
Improving opportunities for meaningful employment and business development. You will do this by creating the Aboriginal Economic Development Fund for Indigenous communities and businesses.
  • MAA launched the Aboriginal Economic Development Fund in October 2014, providing grants and loans for Aboriginal businesses and to seven Aboriginal financial institutions across Ontario to improve access to grants, financing and skills training for promising businesses and community projects.
  • $5 million was provided in 2014-15, and has increased to $10 million per year for 2015-16 and 2016-17, for a total investment of $25 million over three years.
Improving socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples living in urban communities by creating the Urban Aboriginal Action Plan.
  • MAA funded its partners $500,000 in 2014-15 and $1 million in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to develop strategies with the province that reflect local interests and lead to improved socio-economic outcomes.
  • In 2014-15, Indigenous communities in North Bay and Barrie were funded to demonstrate community development initiatives.
  • In fall 2015, Indigenous partners engaged 10 urban communities to help identify strategic priorities.
Supporting the Minister of Education’s work to improve educational outcomes, closing achievement gaps and significantly increasing graduation rates for Indigenous learners.
  • MAA supports the Ministry of Education (EDU) in implementing the Aboriginal Education Strategy and the Ontario First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework.
  • EDU and MAA are working to support the implementation of an Anishinabek education system, part of a self-government agreement.
  • In November 2015, Ontario and the Anishinabek Nation signed the Master Education Framework Agreement.
Continuing to work with the Ontario Women’s Directorate, including 8 line ministries and the Indigenous Caucus of the Joint Working Group, to develop a long-term strategy to end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
  • Ontario is seeking approvals on a long-term strategy to end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Working with the Minister of Energy and the federal government to ensure that remote First Nation communities are positioned to benefit from remote transmission projects by creating the Remote Electrification Readiness Program.
  • Ontario is investing in four projects in 2015-17 that will help prepare diesel-dependent First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario for connection to the province’s power grid.
Continuing to work across government to ensure that Indigenous peoples share in the benefits of natural resources and are engaged in resource-related economic development. You will do this by advancing the province’s local/sectoral approach to resource benefits sharing.
  • Resource benefits sharing continues to be a priority of the government and First Nations partners, and was identified as an area of mutual interest for efforts under the recent political accord.
  • Ontario is exploring revenue sharing in the forest sector with First Nations through two pilot projects, and the Métis Voyageur Development Fund continues to support Métis entrepreneurs in Ontario.
Working with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and with First Nation communities on the next phase of negotiations under the Ring of Fire Framework Agreement our government signed earlier this year. Your goal is to ensure benefits sharing and a regional approach that respects community-based planning.
  • Ontario and nine First Nations members of Matawa Tribal Council signed a framework agreement to move forward with a negotiation process for a community-based regional approach to development.
  • MAA continues to collaborate with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines by providing advice and support on consultation, regional and social infrastructure, resource revenue sharing, community readiness, and tripartite governance.
Continuing to resolve land claims in a timely manner, concluding the Agreement-in-Principle on the Algonquin land claim, developing a draft Algonquin treaty for public consultation and continuing to encourage the federal government to make progress on outstanding land issues.
  • Four land claim settlement agreements have been settled: Windy Point Reserve Claim, Chapleau Ojibwe First Nation treaty land entitlement claim, Rainy River First Nations flooding claim, and Pic Mobert land and larger land base.
  • The Chapleau Cree First Nation treaty land entitlement claim has also been initialed.
  • The Algonquins of Ontario treaty negotiations reached a new milestone with the publication of an initialled proposed agreement in principle on June 12, 2015.
Moving forward with a new Treaty Strategy that will promote constructive engagement with First Nation communities, revitalize treaty relationships and promote improved socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples. You will also develop an education and awareness campaign to increase public awareness, understanding and recognition of treaties and treaty rights.
  • In November 2014, with First Nation leadership in the gallery, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs delivered a statement in the legislature concerning the continued importance of treaties and the treaty relationship.
  • MAA continues a public awareness and social media campaign, as well as support for partners' treaty awareness initiatives.
Working with ministers to ensure that Ontario continues to meet its duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate Aboriginal communities.
  • MAA established an inter-ministry consultation policy project office to develop a government-wide consultation policy working with First Nations/Métis partners and industry stakeholders.
Improving drinking water on reserves, with a focus on remote communities. You will work with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the federal government to make substantive progress in providing First Nation reserves with access to safe drinking water. The ministers will work toward developing measurable, achievable targets to monitor progress.
  • In December 2015, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs made a formal recommendation to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs that a trilateral table between the federal government, Ontario and First Nations in the province be convened as soon as possible.
  • MAA will continue to work with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Canada and Indigenous leadership toward implementing the Drinking Water Action Plan.
Engaging in dialogue with the federal government on key priorities and issues for Indigenous peoples. This will include advocating for more sustainable funding for education, taking further action to address socio-economic disparities for First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities — and addressing the funding implications of increasing Indigenous control in program and service delivery.
  • Ontario works with ministers from the provinces and territories and National Aboriginal Organizations through the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group on the priority areas of education, economic development, housing, disaster mitigation and emergency management, and Ontario’s key priority of ending violence against Indigenous women and girls.
  • MAA has made a formal recommendation to the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and we look forward to working with the new federal government to build stronger relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples to improve socio-economic outcomes and support the overall goal of reconciliation.
Supporting the National Aboriginal Organizations’ call to the federal government to hold a national public inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Work with the Assembly of First Nations and Native Women’s Association of Canada towards a national roundtable discussion with federal and provincial ministers on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
  • The first National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was held in Ottawa, February 2015. Ontario identified 10 proposed actions that can be taken to improve the situation for Aboriginal women and girls, including the creation of a pan-Canadian public awareness campaign and a socio-economic action plan for Aboriginal women and girls.
  • The second roundtable is scheduled for February 2016 in Winnipeg. Ontario will support Manitoba in coordination of these activities.
Updated: June 01, 2021
Published: January 10, 2016