NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa of the Kiiwetinoong riding continues to say that the new PC government and Doug Ford are moving backwards on reconciliation efforts with Indigenous communities across the province. Mamakwa says that the PC’s “backwards priorities” continue to stall meaningful reconciliation, and are moving Ontario’s relationship with Indigenous people in the “wrong direction.”
He then cited a lack of movement on cleaning up the mercury-poisoned river system in Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong Independant Nations.
“Chief Rudy Turtle from Grassy Narrows indicated to me that there had been no outreach whatsoever since the election of this Conservative government. This government so far hasn’t demonstrated a commitment to reconciliation with First Nations people here in Ontario.”
Mamakwa then pointed to the PC party’s quick action to remove a statue of Sir John A. McDonald in Victoria, and asked why there was such a delay to the clean-up of the English and Wabigoon River system.
"This government must act as quickly as possible to clean up the river and the land, and to ensure everyone gets high-quality care. They must, as New Democrats have proposed, contribute to a mercury treatment centre for the people in these communities.” "But to do these things they must consult and work with the people. What contact has the premier made with the Chief and Council of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong? So much damage has been done already, and waiting is only making things worse. This government cannot be allowed to drag its feet any longer," Mamakwa added.
“The government is committed to the clean-up of the river system, and the concerns about ongoing concerns,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks in response. “$85 million has been set aside in a trust. We will be pleased to continue to report the progress of the project.
This isn’t the first time that Mamakwa has said the PC’s aren’t doing enough to rebuild relationships with Indigenous communities. Last month, he called on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to explain why he removed reconciliation from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and relegated the ministry to a ‘part-time minister’ – Kenora Rainy-River MPP Greg Rickford.
In response, Rickford said that even though he has multiple ministries on his plate, he is more than prepared to take on the ever-growing challenge. Rickford noted that he has met and spoken to a variety of Chiefs and leaders in Indigenous organizations about the ministry, and that he has not heard any negative feedback.
Rickford previously held two portfolios as a federal minister – as the minister responsible for FedNor and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. He also has previous experience with Indian Affairs and Northern Development, as he was appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary to the minister in 2011.
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PC’s moving backwards on reconciliation, Mamakwa