QUEEN’S PARK — NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong) said that the Ford government can show real commitment to reconciliation by supporting the NDP bill to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in Ontario.
"By adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Ontario, the Ford government can make a firm commitment to reconciliation and establish new relations with Indigenous people based on respect," said Mamakwa, the Ontario NDP's Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic.
Mamakwa's bill 76, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, is a provincial response to the call from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada for all three levels of government to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration. It would ensure that provincial laws align with the UN declaration.
"If the Ford government passes this bill, it would mean that the province recognizes the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous peoples," said Mamakwa. “This is a key opportunity for the Ford government to strengthen its relationship with indigenous people after starting its first 200 days in office by moving backwards in its treaty obligations.”
Since Doug Ford began his term in office, he removed reconciliation from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, he cut funding for Indigenous curriculum development, and he eliminated Ontario’s Indigenous Culture Fund. To date, the government has made no movement to clean up mercury-contaminated sites in the English and Wabigoon rivers affecting Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong.
The Ford government has also failed to take action for children and families in Cat Lake First Nation who have been under a state of emergency since Jan. 16, 2019. Now, the government is scrapping the Ontario Child Advocate, which disproportionately impacts Indigenous children in care.
"The Ford government cannot keep sending the same message to Indigenous people in Ontario: that they do not care what happens to us. This is the same old approach that has failed Indigenous people, and failed Canada, in the past," said Mamakwa.
"Indigenous people across Ontario are telling Doug Ford that we can have a new relationship with the provincial government, one that is based on respect for our rights as Indigenous people, a relationship that brings prosperity for our communities as promised in the treaties.
“Decisions on resource development in the North should be collaboratively designed with Indigenous communities and must be made with the free, prior and informed consent of the true caretakers of the land. We can do that by working with the framework of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Ontario."
Bill 76 will be debated in the legislature on Thursday, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.