Treaty rights and jurisdiction will be at the top of the agenda during the annual summit meeting of Ontario First Nations chiefs on Manitoulin Island this week.
Chiefs from the province’s 134 First Nations are meeting at the new Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current, Ont. – a fitting setting, as the hotel is a business venture owned by seven First Nations on the island.
While the meeting will cover areas of discussion ranging from education to housing to policing, the grand chief of the Anishinabek Nation said dealing with issues of jurisdiction have been put off for too long.
"Jurisdiction was supposed to be talked about in 1982 with the Constitution," said Patrick Madahbee. "Here we are 30 years later and that topic still hasn’t come back on the table. So that’s a key topic that would sort out a lot of the mess … in this country."
The problems affecting First Nations across the province are diverse, Madahbee noted, but said it is "crucial" a single approach be determined this week. That single focus needs to be one that represents the voice of remote First Nations as much as it does the growing urban Aboriginal population.
"You know we have to find areas of common concern when we are dealing with the federal and provincial [government] on some of the key bread and butter issues," he said.