Statement from Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse on National Day of Action
TORONTO, June 29 – The recent events in and around the area of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Alderville First Nation, and near Bala, Ontario are a result of the actions of a few individuals and are not reflective of the collective resolve of the First Nations in Ontario. There is no doubt that First Nations have longstanding legitimate grievances that must be addressed now and not ten, twenty or thirty years down the road. The National Day of Action was planned to initiate a peaceful process to raise awareness about these legitimate grievances, and to continue to advocate for the full recognition and respect of First Nations aboriginal and Treaty rights. First Nations leaders are responsible to represent, and speak for their citizens. First Nations leaders have clearly stated that the frustration and despair in our communities is palpable. We cannot stand by and pretend this is not the case. First Nations leaders have done their utmost to bring this situation to light, while advocating peaceful and constructive measures to build momentum and support for genuine, positive action on the part of governments to improve the quality of life for First Nations citizens. This means taking action to move beyond the grinding poverty and the hopelessness that exists now. We are all responsible to address and improve this situation — First Nations leaders, Canadians, and Government. One must ask themselves why it takes blockades, or threats of blockades and occupations to force the Government to act. The Oka crisis in 1990 forced some change. For example, the Indian Claims Commission was established following the conclusion of the Oka crisis. Additionally, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) was created. The 400 or so recommendations from the RCAP have been all but ignored. Now in 2007, with the threat of blockades and further uncertainty once again looming, both levels of government have made positive announcements that First Nations leaders have been advocating for over many years. These announcements include the creation of an independent body to settle land claims, and for more resources to support the settlement of claims in a more expedient manner. Why does it have to come to this for the government to act? Canadians must ask their elected officials this question.
First Nations people believe in resolving differences in a peaceful manner. We remain committed to this principle and implore all First Nations citizens to stand with us in our collective efforts. The First Nation leadership in Ontario appeals for calm, restraint and good judgment on the part of all parties on this National Day of Action. We are appealing to all First Nations citizens to focus on the true message and to not lose sight of it, as this will only serve to detract us from achieving progress and building a strong network of support. We call on the Government of Canada to work with First Nations leadership in a true spirit of partnership, reflective of the Nation to Nation relationship that the sacred Treaties established. First Nations leaders call on both levels of government to move beyond the rhetoric by taking concrete and immediate actions to settle our legitimate grievances. The policies of inaction have consequences, and unfortunately, we are seeing more and more what these consequences can be. This benefits no one, and hurts all of us. Let’s finally move beyond the status quo. First Nations leaders in Ontario are certainly willing to move forward in a positive manner for the good of all our citizens.
For further information: Pam Hunter, (905) 683-0322 or Policy Advisor, (613) 720-5539