Indigenous groups receive funding for 'nation rebuilding efforts'

·3 min read

Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon hopes there will be a long-term, sustainable commitment from the federal government once the Nation Rebuilding Program comes to an end.

“We can’t have a process and then discontinue the whole process because funding is not available,” Solomon said. “They use the word ‘reconciliation’ and you can’t have reconciliation if there’s no sustainable plan to what needs to be done.”

This fiscal year, 10 Indigenous groups in Ontario have received just over $4 million through the federal Nation Rebuilding Program.

The groups that received funding are Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Mushkegowuk Council, Wabun Tribal Council, Algonquins of Ontario, Grand Council Treaty #3, Independent First Nations Alliance, Matawa First Nations Management, Mississauga Nation, Ontario Treaty 5 and Robinson Huron Waawiidaamaagewin.

Solomon said Mushkegowuk Council is looking at establishing regional First Nation governments, outside of the Indian Act, reclaiming the sovereignty Indigenous people had before treaties were signed and creating their laws and structures.

“It’s not only about governance. It’s about the community as a whole, infrastructure, education, health, justice, economy, that’s what we’re looking at,” he said.

In 2018, the federal government announced $100 million over five years to support Indigenous entities and organizations with nation-building initiatives.

Funding is provided annually and recipients are selected based on their proposals. Since its establishment, the program has funded 155 projects and multi-year initiatives.

When talking about the future of the nation, Solomon said it will be a long process that will take a lot of work and "hot discussions" but he believes all of the communities will come to a consensus.

“We don’t want to see a year-to-year commitment because a lot of work needs to be done. And in order for us to do that work, we need to have a work plan. And the work plan must come with goals when this would happen and things like these,” he said. “Reconciliation is a very strong word you use when you talk about this process, and reconciliation doesn’t happen overnight.”

He noted it is an "exciting time" as Indigenous communities are reclaiming their sovereignty because Indigenous people had their own culture, languages, law and system of governing before signing treaties.

"When this all is done, First Nations will be released from the master and they're going to determine their own future. This is a part of the self-determination process," Solomon said. "And this is what we're talking about when we're talking about nation-building ... we're actually reclaiming back our nationhood."

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett said it was a “wonderful opportunity” to speak with Solomon Tuesday morning and it was inspiring to learn about the council’s visions and values.

“These are the nation-rebuilding funds have been put in place to be able to support nations wanting to have those conversations with their partners within the nations as they move on the journey of self-determination,” she said.

When asked how the federal government is going to continue supporting Indigenous communities and groups once the program is over, she said there would have to be “internal conversations within communities.”

“If the community develops the consensus that they want to move to a discussion table with Canada, there are over 150 of those discussion tables taking place now … So, in some ways over a million First Nation, Metis or Inuit are now at a table discussing their path to self-determination,” Bennett said.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com