Indigenous

First Nations and Métis Ontario election priorities include relationship building

First Nations and Métis organizations in Ontario are looking for commitments to relationship building, health care and developing policies from provincial election candidates.

'The magic word here is partnership,' says Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare

A polling station is open for advance voting in the Ontario provincial election in Carleton Place, Ont., on Tuesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The Chiefs of Ontario and the Métis Nation of Ontario say they want whatever party forms the next Ontario provincial government to commit to building relationships and working with them on issues like health care, mining and resources.

The Ontario provincial election is June 2.

The Chiefs of Ontario (COO) facilitates discussion, planning, implementation and evaluation of all local, regional and national matters affecting the First Nations people of Ontario. 

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare said COO wants to continue building a relationship with the province and to have a seat at the decision-making table for all issues that might impact First Nations. 

"The magic word here is partnership," said Hare.

"We need partnership in Ontario here in all areas, not just for money, but everything."

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare says partnership is the most important word of this election. (Anishinabek Nation)

He said Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford told him he wants a partnership with First Nations and to work together on mining, the Ring of Fire mineral development region, forestry, and the environment.

Hare said he was invited to decision-making meetings around COVID-19 and wants that kind of relationship to continue. 

"Not everything I say or we say is going to happen or get approved but at least we're part of it," he said.

"I didn't think I'd ever see a Nishnaabe to sit there, so I'm proud of that."

Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) President Margaret Froh said their top priorities include a commitment to collaborate with MNO in developing programs and policies around children and family services, and housing. 

"We want any party that forms a government to establish a process at the cabinet level, to deal directly with the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and our priorities across the ministries," she said. 

The MNO represents Métis people in Ontario. It has representatives at provincial and local levels.

Métis Nation of Ontario President Margaret Froh says their top priorities include developing Métis-specific policies and a commitment for non-insured health benefits. (Métis Nation of Ontario)

Froh said within the provincial party platforms she did not see a commitment around non-insured health benefits for Métis. Unlike First Nations and Inuit, Métis do not have access to the federal non-insured health benefits program.

"We've heard directly from our citizens, especially some of our older citizens, that some of them are sharing prescriptions for really important medical issues just because they can't afford the cost of medication," said Froh.

"Access to uninsured health benefits, as well as dental care, prescription drugs and support for seniors are all very serious concerns for people."

Froh said they are hoping for support for a biannual leadership summit between the MNO and the province to raise awareness of Métis culture and history among cabinet and members of the governing party. 

CBC reached out to Tungasuvvingat Inuit, the Ontario organization representing and supporting urban Inuit, for comment on election priorities but a spokesperson was not available before the time of publishing. 

Both the COO and the MNO are encouraging their citizens to vote in the provincial election. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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