5 Anishinabek First Nations in Ontario sign agreement with Ottawa that would allow them to self-govern
Organization's Grand Council chief says the 5 First Nations have taken 'giant step'
Five communities within the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario have signed an agreement with the federal government that would see them move away from the Indian Act and into self-governance.
Moose Deer Point, Wahnapitae, Nipissing, Magnetawan and Zhiibaahaasing First Nations signed the historic agreement this week with the federal government.
"The Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement is the first self-government agreement of its kind in Ontario and marks an important step away from the Indian Act for the signatory Anishinabek First Nations," a federal news release Wednesday says.
The agreement, if passed, would give the First Nations the power to make their own decisions about how to hold elections, who their citizens are and how their governments will operate. They would also have authority over how best to protect and promote their language and culture.
Federal legislation must now be passed to bring the agreement into effect, meaning the parts of the Indian Act that deal with governance would no longer apply to First Nations who sign on to it.
We look forward to continuing to work together with Anishinabek partners on all our shared priorities.— Marc Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe said while five member communities have signed onto the agreement now, any of the political organization's 34 other First Nations could decide to sign on in the future.
Niganobe said the five First Nations have taken a "giant step."
"It's a lengthy and daunting act, especially moving away from the Indian Act and the comfort zone that's been created there," said Niganobe. "We know that the Indian Act isn't the most friendly legislation towards Indigenous nations, but it's what we've been known to operate under for such a long time now."
2 decades of negotiations
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said in a news release the agreement will renew a "nation-to-nation relationship with the signatory Anishinabek First Nations."
"We look forward to continuing to work together with Anishinabek partners on all our shared priorities, to implement their inherent right to self-determination and support their inspiring visions of a better future for their citizens."
It took two decades of negotiations to reach the agreement, which was approved by each signatory First Nation through community votes.
With files from Martha Dillman