Chapter IV, Section A: Working with Indigenous Partners

Introduction

Guided by a commitment to reconciliation, Ontario continues to take action to build stronger relationships with First Nation, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous peoples. This includes improving socioeconomic opportunity and sustainability in Indigenous communities. Working in partnership, Ontario supports the efforts of Indigenous communities to develop policies and programs that reflect the diversity of Indigenous traditions, cultures and histories.

Under the umbrella of the 2015 Political Accord between First Nations and the Government of Ontario and consistent with The Journey Together: Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples as well as Walking Together: Ontario’s Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women, Ontario remains committed to working with Indigenous leadership in the province in a spirit of mutual respect. In December 2017, Ontario signed the Framework Agreement for Advancing Reconciliation between the Métis Nation of Ontario, the government of Canada and the government of Ontario, which establishes a process for developing a government-to-government relationship between the Crown and the Métis Nation of Ontario, and working together on mutual priorities.

The government will continue to work together with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to create culturally relevant and responsive supports; build prosperous, healthy and strong Indigenous communities; and improve outcomes.

Working in Partnership to Support Indigenous Children and Youth

Indigenous Youth and Community Wellness Secretariat: Delivering Community- and Youth-Driven Solutions

In recent years, several First Nation communities in northern Ontario have suffered a very high number of youth suicides. Concurrently, a large number of Indigenous youth from remote, northern Ontario First Nation communities attending high school in larger urban centres have experienced race-based violence, and lack culturally appropriate accommodations and supports.

Youth suicides in Indigenous communities, as well as the intergenerational trauma that is the legacy of Canada’s residential school system and other forms of institutionalized racism, has contributed to health and social crises that require a coordinated approach to providing holistic and culturally appropriate solutions.

Ontario established the Indigenous Youth and Wellness Secretariat in July 2017 to work with Indigenous partners to co-develop and co-implement a longer term action plan to assist Indigenous youth and communities. New initiatives to provide enhanced localized supports include:

  • Enhancing access to resources and supports to empower Indigenous youth.
  • Increasing inclusionary learning by supporting Indigenous Institutes to expand capacity and strengthen their role as an important and unique pillar in Ontario’s postsecondary education system. This recognition builds on the $56 million investment over three years in Indigenous learners announced in the 2017 Budget. See Chapter II: Growing the Economy and Creating Good Jobs, section Recognizing Indigenous Institutes for more details.
  • Providing $5.5 million in provincial funding in the 2017–18 school year to help Nishnawbe Aski Nation students continue their education in urban centres. Combined with federal funding of $4.7 million annually over the next three years, the provincial investment will ensure resources are available to enable a safe and culturally relevant and appropriate learning environment.
  • Expanding counselling and broader mental health supports by providing Pikangikum First Nation with funding to hire an additional 20 mental health workers for children and youth at risk.

Improving Access to Culturally Relevant Child Care

Child care is an integral part of women’s economic empowerment. Investing in high-quality child care is good for the economy and for families. Research also shows that children benefit significantly from access to high-quality child care, including improved education, health and employment outcomes.1

Ontario is committed to providing affordable, high-quality child care on- and off-reserve, so families have the support they need to have a good quality of life and contribute fully to the economy.

That is why starting in 2018–19, the Province will provide First Nation communities with $40 million over three years in new operating funding for new and existing child care programs on-reserve. The government will also invest $290 million over six years in new child care capital infrastructure starting in 2019–20. These investments will create 4,500 new child care spaces, doubling current child care capacity on-reserve.

The government will work closely with First Nation organizations and communities to understand their local needs and develop expansion plans for child care on-reserve, and will continue engaging the federal government on opportunities for cost-sharing these critical investments.

In December 2017, the Province also announced an investment of $23.5 million over two years to partner with, and expand, culturally relevant child and family programs in 40 First Nation communities. This investment will support programming for more than 1,800 children and their families, including:

  • M’Chigeeng First Nation — Extending hours and days of operation to meet parents’ schedules, providing mobile services for families with no access to transportation, and delivering new culture- and language-specific programs;
  • Nibinamik First Nation — Supporting a partnership with researchers, early years experts and the Nibinamik community to develop and implement a locally driven, culturally specific approach to early years programming;
  • Walpole Island First Nation — Enhancing language and cultural programs for children and families, including gardening, traditional arts and crafts, and visiting Elders; and
  • Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve — Doubling the number of families who are able to access the child and family program, and supporting the community’s stated priority of building fluency in the traditional language, including a partnership with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education on early years language acquisition.

In February 2018, the government announced an investment of $70 million over the next two years in new spaces and programming led by Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous organizations through approximately 60 off-reserve projects for Indigenous children and families in rural and urban areas. This investment will support community-designed and delivered programs that provide culturally relevant support, advice and personal connections, as well as a network of resources and play- and inquiry-based programs for young children and their families.

Enhancing Indigenous Health Care

A room in a health center for Indigenous individuals and families.
Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, one of Ontario's infrastructure investments, supports individuals and families in the District of Manitoulin Island.

Investing in the health and wellness of Indigenous communities is one of many steps on Ontario’s journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. It reflects the government’s commitment to work with Indigenous partners, creating a better future for everyone across Ontario.

The Province and Indigenous partners are working together to improve access to health care and increase the involvement of Indigenous communities in developing and delivering their health care services. Launched in 2016, Ontario’s First Nations Health Action Plan is increasing equitable access to care and taking steps to give First Nations decision-making power over health care through an investment of nearly $222 million over three years followed by sustained funding of $104.5 million annually. New initiatives include:

  • Helping First Nations and urban Indigenous peoples in their last stages of life get the care they need with the option to stay at home or in the community, by providing training for up to 1,000 health care workers living and working in First Nation communities, and for Indigenous health care organizations providing palliative care;
  • Doctor treating an Indigenous child.
    The Province and its Indigenous partners are improving access to affordable, quality health and wellness programs.
  • Providing culturally appropriate primary health care services and programs to Indigenous peoples — including individuals and families living in remote and fly-in communities — by expanding access to home and community care services and creating 16 new or expanded Indigenous-governed and community-driven interprofessional primary care teams in Ontario;
  • Supporting 34 Indigenous-led mental health and wellness programs across the province that include traditional healing to provide enhanced, culturally appropriate supports for Indigenous youth, adults, families and communities, including 100 new mental health workers that will service more than 69 First Nation communities, as well as urban Indigenous communities;
  • Offering over 50 new culturally appropriate treatment beds for Indigenous people in 10 Indigenous Mental Health and Addictions Treatment and Healing Centres across Ontario, which will offer substance use disorder services, holistic mental health counselling and cultural supports; and
  • Addressing elder abuse as part of Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors, which is helping seniors access the support they need at every stage of life.
idea from the public

Budget Talks: Increase Access to Healthy Food in Northern Ontario

This pilot was among the five most voted for ideas for funding through Budget Talks, an innovative online public consultation tool.

First Nation peoples in rural and remote areas have a harder time accessing healthy food, including vegetables and fruit, than residents living in other parts of the province.

The government is committed to improving access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food.

Up to 20 First Nations Student Nutrition Program delivery partners will be provided funding for initiatives that increase food access in First Nation communities.

The idea will receive a one-time investment of $1 million in 2018–19. Progress updates will be provided throughout the year at Ontario.ca/budgettalks

Urban Indigenous Action Plan

A majority of Ontario’s Indigenous peoples live in cities and towns. Through the Urban Indigenous Action Plan, Ontario is supporting reconciliation with these Indigenous peoples. The Action Plan is designed to guide the public and broader public sectors as they partner with urban Indigenous communities in developing, implementing and evaluating policies and programs that impact Indigenous peoples living off-reserve. The Action Plan provides an opportunity for urban Indigenous communities to exercise leadership and decision-making to better meet their needs.

The Action Plan was co-developed by the Province and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Ontario Native Women’s Association, and also includes input from urban Indigenous communities across Ontario.

Providing Additional Assistance to Individuals and First Nations Impacted by Mercury Contamination

Between 1962 and 1970, waste containing significant amounts of mercury was released into the English-Wabigoon River system, contaminating the waters and food supply in the area of the Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation and Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in northwestern Ontario.

Remediation of Mercury Contamination

In June 2017, the Province committed $85 million to fund the remediation of contaminants in the English-Wabigoon River system. A trust to provide funding for remediation, is being set up through collaboration between impacted First Nations and the Province. An independent panel has been established to oversee the trust, with representation from the First Nations and the Province.

To date, Ontario has dedicated $5.2 million to support pre-remediation science and other related activities, including work undertaken by the impacted First Nations. An assessment is currently underway to determine if there are ongoing sources of mercury contamination affecting the English-Wabigoon River system. This assessment is being completed through a transparent process that includes the involvement of the First Nations.

Indexing Mercury Disability Payments

In 1985, a settlement agreement was reached between Ontario, Canada and impacted First Nations establishing a Mercury Disability Fund to provide disability benefits to members of the First Nations affected by mercury contamination. As part of the government’s commitment to assist the people of these communities, the individual benefits under the Mercury Disability Fund are being indexed to inflation.

Over the coming year, the government will continue to work with these communities and Canada on further reforms to the Mercury Disability Fund and on other measures to assist these communities in recovering from exposure to mercury.

Partnering with Indigenous Communities on Infrastructure

Indigenous Supportive Housing Program

Providing Indigenous peoples with access to adequate, affordable and safe housing is a key priority for the government. This is why Ontario is providing an additional $4.5 million in 2018–19 for the Indigenous Supportive Housing Program (ISHP) to construct approximately 30 additional units of supportive housing for Indigenous peoples in northern Ontario. The investment will support Indigenous mothers and families travelling from First Nation communities for prenatal and postnatal care who are in need of supportive rental housing.

The ISHP will continue to be administered by Indigenous peoples for those in need of housing assistance and support services.

Connecting Northern Remote Communities to the Transmission Grid

Twenty-five remote First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario rely on diesel for local power generation. However, as noted in the 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan, the high cost of diesel fuel creates a strong economic and environmental case to connect as many as 21 of those communities to Ontario’s electricity grid instead.

Wataynikaneyap Power LP (Wataynikaneyap Power), a licensed transmission company, is a partnership between First Nation LP, comprising 22 First Nations with majority ownership, and FortisOntario. Wataynikaneyap Power has been selected to connect 16 remote First Nation communities to an adequate, reliable and clean supply of power. The project will be able to support new housing, water treatment and other community infrastructure, with added economic and employment benefits for northwestern Ontario and First Nation community members. Ontario has been engaging with Wataynikaneyap Power and the federal government on cost-sharing responsibilities.

The Independent Electricity System Operator has established a Matawa-focused working group to assist in determining the best path forward for five other communities that are economic to connect to the grid. For the remaining communities, Ontario is exploring innovative and potentially cost-effective solutions, such as supporting the development of renewable microgrids, in an effort to reduce diesel use.

Partnering with Indigenous Communities to Invest in Economic Development

To improve economic opportunities and ensure that Indigenous peoples continue to thrive, the Province’s Indigenous Economic Development Fund (IEDF) has helped create and retain approximately 846 jobs and attract $13.6 million in investment since 2014. This fund has helped improve access to financing, jobs and training for Indigenous peoples and communities in Ontario.

Settling Indigenous Land Claims

Ontario and Canada continue to work with First Nations to resolve outstanding land claims. In the past year, the governments have signed two settlements with Ontario First Nations:

  • In May 2017, Ontario and Canada signed a settlement agreement with Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation that provides compensation for past and future flooding to portions of reserve land; and
  • In October 2017 and January 2018, Ontario and Canada, respectively, signed a settlement agreement with Mitaanjigamiing First Nation to provide compensation recognizing treaty obligations not fully met in the past.

Building on these successes, Ontario will continue to work with Canada and First Nations to move forward on resolving land claims.

Revenue-Sharing Agreements with First Nation Communities

Natural Resource Revenue Sharing

The government is committed to working with Indigenous partners to close socioeconomic gaps and increase participation in the resource sector by advancing resource benefit sharing opportunities, including in the mining and forestry sectors. Over the past year, the Province has had ongoing discussions with several First Nation partners on resource revenue-sharing and looks forward to continuing this dialogue with other Indigenous partners.

Sharing the benefits of resource development with Indigenous communities is an important part of reconciliation between Ontario and Indigenous peoples. It supports a positive environment for strong business partnerships and helps build healthy, prosperous communities. The government will continue to work with Indigenous partners so that Indigenous communities can participate in and benefit from responsible resource development opportunities in Ontario.

Community-Based Regulation of Tobacco and Revenue Sharing

Ontario has made it a priority to improve social, economic and health outcomes for Indigenous peoples by working in partnership with First Nation communities. The government remains committed to working with First Nation partners across the province on self-regulation of tobacco, including sharing a portion of provincial tobacco tax revenues with communities that agree to regulate on-reserve tobacco sales. The Province continues to work with the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Anishinabek Nation and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne towards tobacco regulation and revenue-sharing agreements.

The government will also be proposing amendments to the Tobacco Tax Act to further enhance the government’s ability to implement tobacco regulation and revenue-sharing agreements. This includes amendments to expand the scope of the agreements to include the production of tobacco on-reserve and to allow for payments of grants to First Nation communities.

Modernizing the Ontario Gas Card Program

After consulting with First Nation communities across the province, the government heard that the Ontario Gas Card Program — which enables First Nation individuals to purchase tax-exempt gasoline on-reserve — could be improved. In response to recommendations about improving the existing program’s efficiency, the Province is proposing to modernize the program by discontinuing the Ontario Gas Card as proof of entitlement to purchase tax-exempt gasoline in First Nation communities, and instead permit:

  • First Nation individuals to present the federally issued Certificate of Indian Status card, Secure Certificate of Indian Status card or Temporary Confirmation of Registration Document; and
  • Band councils to use a unique identifier, issued by Ontario, for gasoline purchases related to band-owned vehicles.

Effective in 2019, these changes would simplify and improve service for First Nation individuals and band councils, gasoline retailers and industry, and strengthen overall program efficiency and integrity. The government will continue to work with First Nations and industry stakeholders to support a smooth transition to the new process.

Appreciating that some First Nation communities do not have access to the resources necessary for implementing these changes, the government continues to work towards identifying and implementing the best solution available to make it more efficient and easier for authorized gasoline retailers in First Nation communities to receive their refunds.

Footnote

[1] Clive R. Belfield et al., “The High/Scope Perry Preschool program: Cost-Benefit Analysis Using Data from the Age-40 followup,” Journal of Human Resources, 41(1), (2006):162–190.

Updated: March 28, 2018
Published: March 28, 2018