The times they are a-changin’

Share Button

Many people do not realize that a very big change has happened for First Nation people when it comes to political commitments and more positive relationships from the government of Canada and province of Ontario.

We have come from an environment full of conflict, mistrust and oppression under former governments to a time of healing in an atmosphere that has more to do with fairness and understanding. That is a very big deal for us as First Nation people.

On a federal level for so many years there was far too much conflict and a lack of trust between Ottawa and Aboriginal people. Negative laws were passed that took away much of the protection for our waters and lands and an environment of hate and mistrust reigned.

In the mid-1990s we experienced an Ontario government that often was at odds with our First Nation leaders. In fact in 1995, during a protest at Ipperwash Provincial Park in southern Ontario, Dudley George was killed by police gunfire as violence erupted due to a strong-armed atmosphere that was created by government leaders at the time. The protest concerned land that belonged to the First Nations, which had been expropriated during the second world war. That land was never returned and it was a critical issue for the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation as the area had been used traditionally and housed a burial site.

Under the newly elected federal Liberal government, a settlement was finalized on April 14, 2016, to return the land to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation along with a $95 million payment. Chief Tom Bressette of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation was involved in the resulting settlement on behalf of his community.

It took so long for this wrong to be dealt with and regretfully it had to be done with the loss of the life of Dudley George. His life should never have been taken. We all must remember him and with the realization that it really does matter who is running our federal and provincial governments. When policies and procedures are put in place that create conflict and mistrust bad things happen.

I was happy to hear that Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized on behalf of the Ontario government for the brutalities committed for generations at residential schools and the continued harm this abuse has caused to Indigenous cultures, communities, families and individuals. Wynne made her statement of Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the Legislative Assembly, with residential school survivors and First Nation, Métis and Inuit leaders in attendance. She apologized for the policies and practices supported by past Ontario governments, and the harm they caused; for the province’s silence in the face of abuse and death at residential schools; and for residential schools being only one example of systemic inter-generational abuses and injustices inflicted upon Indigenous communities throughout Canada.

Wynne also announced her government would invest more than $250 million over three years to help: understand the legacy of residential schools, close gaps and remove barriers, create a culturally relevant and responsive justice system, support Indigenous culture and reconcile with Indigenous peoples.

My father Marius and my mother Susan both went through the residential school system so I have a firsthand understanding of the huge wrong committed on my people. The one thing that consoled me as being the witness of so much pain and suffering is that at the very least now we have federal and provincial governments that are striving to work with First Nations and they have been righting many of the wrongs we have suffered over so many years.

We must be mindful of who we put in power when it comes to electing governments. Governments that get elected on hate, bigotry and intolerance only bring us all a lot of pain.

Share Button

Comments are closed.