In recognition of National Indigenous People’s Day, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norman Miller released the following statement:
Given the uncovering of the remains of 215 children buried at the Residential School in Kamloops, it is more important than ever that we not only recognize National Indigenous People’s Day but that we turn our attention to reconciliation.
I am pleased that the Ontario Government through Minister Greg Rickford has committed to investing $10 million in a process to locate, investigate, protect and commemorate burial grounds at former residential schools in Ontario. The process will be developed and led by Indigenous communities and supported by the provincial resources such as the office of the Chief Coroner.
In an effort to further educate myself about reconciliation I took some time to look back through the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. I want to highlight a few of Ontario’s current initiatives to meet the Calls to Action.
The first few Calls to Action are about reducing the number of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. Our government is addressing this problem by designating Indigenous-led organizations as Children’s Aid Societies. Locally on April 1 of this year Ontario announced that Niijaansinaanik Child and Family Services (NCFS) had been designated as the province’s 13th Indigenous children’s aid society. The official designation enables NCFS to provide culturally-based services and supports to more Indigenous children and families in Nipissing, Parry Sound, and Greater Sudbury.
Ontario is also working to protect vulnerable populations including Indigenous women and youth. Our government’s Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy includes Indigenous-specific resources and increased funding for the Anti-Human Trafficking Indigenous-led Initiatives Fund. We have also established an Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council to provide culturally relevant advice, expertise and input on issues such as human trafficking and child, youth and family wellbeing.
In response to Call to Action 17, Ontario has since 2017 been waiving the fees related to name changes for any survivors of residential schools or their family members who are reclaiming their names.
Call to Action 57 is about training public servants in the history of Indigenous Peoples. As of December 2020, approximately 70% of Ontario Public Service employees have registered to take Indigenous Cultural Competency Training.
There are a number of Calls to Action with regard to ensuring the health care system respects Indigenous cultures and traditions. The West Parry Sound Health Centre has worked hard to partner with Indigenous groups and to create their First Nation Healing Room. I am encouraging the Minister of Health to review and learn from WPSHC’s programs and perhaps take their lessons forward in generating a provincial model.
Ontario is funding culturally appropriate mental health and well-being services and supports for Indigenous individuals and communities across Ontario. Specifically, Ontario has committed more than $12 million annually to expand services to help address addiction and mental health concerns within Indigenous communities.
As well, our government has been working hard to increase opportunities for employment and resource revenue sharing with Indigenous partners. The province made the first payments under its resource revenue sharing agreements with Grand Council Treaty #3, Wabun Tribal Council and Mushkegowuk Council from eligible forestry and mining revenues. Ontario will continue to advance resource revenue sharing opportunities, including forestry, mining and aggregates, with more Indigenous partners.
Ontario has invested $37.5 million in funding for 2020-21 for projects that support economic development for Indigenous people. In the past few weeks the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development has announced two programs designed to offer training in the skilled trades to Indigenous individuals. The first involved an investment of $500,000 in a one-year program run by the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries and the First Nations Power Authority to train Indigenous workers for careers such as boilermaker, electrician and welder. The second announcement was regarding $3.6 million to help 150 Indigenous people receive training to start careers building and running the new Greenstone Gold Mine in Geraldton as craft workers, heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, crane operators, welders and millwrights.
Again, the uncovering of the burial grounds in Kamloops has reminded us all of our responsibilities and accountability to the Indigenous peoples of this country. It reminds us all of our commitment to implement the Calls to Action and I will continue to remind my colleagues of this as we move forward. I encourage all residents of Parry Sound-Muskoka to take this opportunity to learn more about the history of our First Nations and in particular about the impacts of the residential school system.
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