Former Ontario premier Bob Rae told Northern Ontario’s political leaders on Wednesday they have to recognize and accept the place and role of First Nations in the growth and economic development of this part of Ontario from this day forward.
Rae, who is the advisor and chief negotiator for the Matawa Tribal Council, was the keynote speaker at the opening of the annual conference of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), which is on this week in Timmins.
More than 260 delegates from across Northern Ontario consisting of mayors, councillors and key staff members are at the McIntyre Community Building for the next two days to debate and discuss issues of common concern. What makes this conference stand out is the participation of so many high profile provincial leaders including Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario party leaders.
It was standing room only at the McIntyre ballroom Wednesday as former premier Rae spoke about the growing influence of First Nations in Northern Ontario.
Rae, who is now the advisor and chief negotiator for the Matawa First Nations, which has a territorial claim on the Ring of Fire mining district.Just before Rae took the podium Kenora Mayor David Canfield had remarked that the future of Ontario is Northern Ontario.
Rae said he agreed with that statement, adding that that it applies not merely to Northern Ontario, but to all of Northern Canada.
“I think it is really important that when we think of the North, we think of all the people who live in the North,” Rae told the conference.
“We have a particular need to understand that this part of Canada, this part of Ontario is the traditional home of people who have lived in this part of the world for thousands of years, since time immemorial,” said Rae.
He said the sense of frustration can still be heard in Northern Ontario from those who suggest that First Nations consultation is just the latest in a series of frustrations and setbacks to development.
“If we had the same kinds of rules and laws and regulations back in the late 19th century and early 20th century, Sudbury would never have been built and Timmins would never “ have been developed,” Rae said he had been told recently.
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