First Nations Leaders Demand Inclusion in Great Lakes Watershed Discussions
Two of Ontario's most prominent First Nations leaders jointly issued a demand to the Minister of Natural Resources calling for the inclusion of First Nations in any discussions regarding the Great Lakes watershed.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, of the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI)--and Grand Chief Denise Stonefish, of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) sent a letter to Minister David Ramsay strongly objecting to First Nation exclusion from the Great Lakes Charter Annex, a process involving Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lake states designed to manage the waters of the Great Lakes Basin.
These various jurisdictions are involved in a 60-day public comment period reviewing the Annex Implementation Agreement, a multi-lateral document that will implement the Great Lakes Charter, Annex 2001.
"There is a need for the MNR as representatives of the Crown to consult First Nations people and provide resources so we might jointly develop a consultation process," said Chief Beaucage standing outside the site of one of a series of Great Lakes Annex information sessions.
"Last year, the Supreme Court defined a constitutional order, in which the Crown is required to negotiate with First Nations in a way that recognizes and accommodates First Nations rights," said Grand Chief Denise Stonefish. "We expect the Crown to fulfill their obligation and duty to consult."
First Nations leaders gathered on the front steps at Metro Hall, in defiance of a public consultation forum that was taking place inside. These two organizations are calling for: A jointly developed consultation process; Funding and resources for that process; and sufficient time to fully participate in the said consultation.
Two weeks ago, the Union of Ontario Indians served notice that they will be asserting Title and jurisdiction over the Great Lakes basin. In a June 29th resolution, First Nations Chiefs authorized their leadership to take "whatever political or legal action is required to protect rights and jurisdiction over the waters of the Great Lakes Basin."
That particular resolution was affirmed by the Assembly of First Nation (AFN) at their annual General Assembly last week in Yellowknife.
The province of Ontario and the U.S. States bordering the Great Lakes have been negotiating an Implementation Agreement with respect to the Great Lakes Charter Annex 2001, a regime to determine such issues as the diversion of Great Lakes water. The Governors and Premiers of Great Lakes states and provinces released the latest draft of the Annex Implementation Agreement June 30 for a 60-day public review.
"This is much more than a jurisdictional dispute. Anishinabek tradition gives our women responsibility as caretakers of the water, and they are telling us it is time to act to prevent furthering poisoning of our rivers and lakes that has been permitted by federal, provincial and state governments," added Grand Council Chief Beaucage.
The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across
Ontario. The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indian represents 8 First Nations throughout Ontario. predominantly in Southern Ontario. These two organizations represent the majority of First Nation jurisdiction in the Great Lakes basin.