Ready for real change

At­lantic Canada’s First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties pre­pared to lead

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Last week, At­lantic Canada’s Chiefs were pleased to host Hunter Tootoo, Min­is­ter of Fish­eries and Oceans Canada, to our quar­terly All Chiefs meet­ing held in Dart­mouth, Nova Sco­tia.

In our meet­ing with Min­is­ter Tootoo, we ex­pressed both our will­ing­ness and readi­ness to work col­lab­o­ra­tively to­gether in or­der to build a pros­per­ous middle class pop­u­la­tion within First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties. Each of the Chiefs had the op­por­tu­nity to speak to the Min­is­ter di­rectly about the op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges fac­ing their com­mu­nity.

Sixty per cent of At­lantic Canada’s First Na­tion pop­u­la­tion is below the age of 35 and the av­er­age age of a fisher in our com­mu­nity is 30 years old. The fish­ery is our sin­gle great­est re­source. We fun­da­men­tally be­lieve that we must build, ex­pand and sus­tain our fish­ery to en­sure that we have jobs and op­por­tu­nity for our youth to­day and for to­mor­row.

The At­lantic fish­ery is a crit­i­cal part of the First Na­tion’s past, present and fu­ture. The eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits that the fish­ery creates has brought many of our fam­i­lies out of poverty and cre­ated many eco­nomic spinoffs. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada rec­og­nized our Treaty Rights with re­spect the fish­ery. With a new Na­tion to Na­tion re­la­tion­ship, First Na­tions and the govern­ment must work to­gether to re­al­ize how best to rec­og­nize and im­ple­ment our treaty rights, in­clud­ing the im­por­tance of in­cor­po­rat­ing our tra­di­tional val­ues and knowl­edge into the re­source man­age­ment process.

First Na­tions in At­lantic Canada have grown in both ca­pac­ity and busi­ness ex­per­tise with re­spect to build­ing and ex­pand­ing vi­able sus­tain­able busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in the fish­ery. Pro­gram sup­ports such as the At­lantic In­te­grated Com­mer­cial Fish­eries Ini­tia­tive (AICFI) from the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) has done a great deal to grow our busi­ness ca­pac­ity and fo­cus. While this pro­gram has been re­newed for fund­ing to 2016, we be­lieve it should be funded for an­other 5 years.

As Cana­di­ans saw on Oc­to­ber 19, First Na­tions and In­dige­nous peo­ple are more en­gaged in the political process than ever be­fore. What’s more, Min­is­ter Tootoo is one of 10 new First Na­tion Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment elected to serve in Ottawa. There has never been a bet­ter time to work to­gether so we can build a new Na­tion to Na­tion re­la­tion­ship.

We’re not only ready for change, we’re pre­pared to lead it. Chief Ge­orge Ginnish and Chief Bob Gloade are co-chairs of the At­lantic Pol­icy Congress

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