Communique following the NAN Chiefs Winter Assembly, February 6-8, 2024, Thunder Bay.

This week, leaders from the 49 member Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) communities met in our traditional way for the Chiefs Winter Assembly (February 6-8, 2024, Thunder Bay).

Our leaders discussed a wide range of issues including: Treaty, housing and infrastructure, water, education, economic development, food security, community wellness, policing, social services, health, and provided strong mandates to the Executive Council for immediate engagement with our federal and provincial Treaty partners.

Facing a NAN-wide mental health crisis, the growing impacts of climate change on the natural environment, and unwanted incursions into the traditional territories of our Nations, NAN Chiefs-in-Assembly have declared the following States of Emergency and mandated the following actions:

Health State of Emergency

NAN First Nations continue to experience an ongoing and worsening state of access to quality healthcare, including emergency health services, and limited accountability within the healthcare system. Our communities are in a state of near-constant crisis, demonstrated by the sudden death of children, child suicide pacts, and other preventable deaths.

Chiefs-in-Assembly have declared a Health State of Emergency, mandating NAN to negotiate resources and establish a NAN territorial First Nations health services Ombudsperson’s Office to investigate and identify barriers to equitable healthcare services and advocate for solutions at every level of government.

Winter Roads State of Emergency

Thirty NAN remote communities are dependent on the winter road season to receive essential goods such as fuel, equipment, non-perishable goods, and construction materials for upcoming community housing and infrastructure projects. Winter temperatures have been significantly warmer than normal, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, leading to many winter road sections deemed unpassable for large and/or full loads of critical supplies.

Chiefs-in-Assembly have declared a Winter Roads State of Emergency, calling on Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development (MND), Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), and Indigenous Affairs Ontario (IAO), to immediately facilitate the required freight and road subsidies to the affected NAN First Nations for fuel and essential non-perishable goods.

Acknowledgment of COO Mining Claims and MLAS Moratorium

NAN territory is facing an unprecedented time for resource development and is a potential cornerstone region for the new global green economy as Canada plans to reposition itself amongst the world’s nations. NAN First Nations insist on the meaningful implementation of the spirit and intent of Treaties signed by our ancestors.

Chiefs-in-Assembly call upon the Premier of Ontario to acknowledge and implement the Chiefs of Ontario call for a 365-day moratorium on issuing mining claims and the Mining Lands Administration System.

Coordination and Oversight Team

As a result of the Agreement in Principle for the long-term reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services program and Jordan’s Principle, and the anticipated associated Final Settlement Agreement, NAN First Nation communities will continue to be bombarded with various reforms, including large influxes of funds. These changes will impact communities in the months and years ahead, creating a risk that the consequences of the bombardment will undermine the long-term reform efforts.

Chiefs-in-Assembly have directed NAN to create a Coordination and Oversight Team to immediately begin pre-emptive planning to forecast and manage vulnerabilities in respect of the impacts of reforms in relation to child and family services.

Emergency Management

In Ontario, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has reported that approximately 86% of emergency events are in the North. The severity and frequency of emergencies continues to increase due to the compounding effects of climate change. ISC has failed to provide transparency on the direction of First Nations Emergency Management in Ontario and there is a lack of consultation, procedure, and documentation on policy decisions.

Chiefs-in-Assembly have mandated NAN to engage in multilateral agreement discussions with Ontario and Canada to identify and address the needs within NAN territory. NAN will support the implementation of recommendations to enhance the role and capacity of NAN communities in emergency management, including review of infrastructure, operational requirements and other capacity needs for effective emergency management.

Chiefs-in-Assembly have also mandated NAN to support the creation of a level of service standards for provision of emergency management supports and services that can inform other First Nation communities in Ontario and Canada.

Water Standards

Under the settlement agreement in the class action lawsuit regarding on-reserve drinking water initiated by Neskantaga First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, and Tataskweyak Cree Nation, the Government of Canada committed to repealing and replacing the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act and develop and introduce replacement water legislation.

Chiefs-in-Assembly have mandated NAN to develop a drinking water and wastewater toolkit to assist NAN communities in achieving the drinking water and wastewater effluent standards imposed by new federal legislation (Bill C-61), in anticipation of that Bill becoming law.

For more information please contact:
Michael Heintzman,
Director of Communications
Cell: (807) 621-2790

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