Sol Mamakwa and the promises to First Nations in Ontario

The promise was made by Ontario Doug Ford following NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa’s historical speech in the Ontario Legislature this week.

Mamakwa told Nation to Nation host Annette Francis the community is very happy to hear the news and it’s been a long time coming.

“I was hoping that the premier would get up and commit to that and then he did and you know we’ve been waiting for six years six years,” he said.

Other issues affecting First Nations were brought up in the Ontario Legislature, including the on-going mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows First Nation.  For decades the community, which is located 80 km north of Kenora, has been plagued with mercury contamination in the river system from a pulp and paper mill.

A recently released report says that wastewater from a paper mill continues to contaminate the Wabigoon River, which eventually flows into the community’s water supply. The wastewater doesn’t have mercury but contains high levels of sulfates and organic matter that combine with existing mercury to create methylmercury, an even more toxic compound.

Mamakwa said it’s getting worse and the government hasn’t commented about what’s going on.

“We need to be able to start the process of providing funds resources to be able to do that cleanup and it’s expensive, but it needs to be done.”

Will Ottawa help fund crumbling hospital in Northern Ontario?

New hospital campus
The dire condition of Weeneebayko General Hospital has patients travelling as far as Kingston, Ontario, for medical services. Photo courtesy: Assembly of First Nations

The Weeneebayko General Hospital is in a critical state The 75 year old building is located Moose Factory, Ont.  According to Chief Peter Wesley of Moose Cree Nation, the building continues to deteriorate as it serves six James Bay First Nations.

That’s why Wesley joined other delegates of the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in Ottawa this week to call on the Federal Government to live up to an agreement it signed in 2007 to build a new health facility.

Wesley said it’s beyond repair.

“If this were strictly a health and safety matter according to the labour code those employees could refuse to work that’s where we are,” he said. “We’ve gone past that point because it’s a regional hospital service for not only Moose Factory and Moosonee, it services Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Attawapiskat, and Peawanuck.

“They’re all relying on this facility to receive healthcare services.”

According to the federal government, it is working on a path forward with Ontario.

Wesley said they’ll keep putting on the pressure to see a commitment and action.

“I would hate for the next media release to be that the roof caved in or something catastrophic like that. Is that what its going (to take) to get this government to move on this file,” he said.

End of the line

Nation to Nation
NDP Charlie Angus in the House of Commons.

Earlier this year NDP MP Charlie Angus announced that after 20 years of public service, he’s not to running for re-election. Angus said he’s looking forward to sticking close to home in the Timmins-James Bay riding.

Angus has been a fierce advocate for First Nations right across the country. He said standing up for injustice is something his Scottish grandmother taught him.

“When I went to communities like Kashechewan the first time and a woman said to me what would you think about raising your children a prisoner of war camp and I looked around and that’s what it looked like, when somethings wrong, its wrong,” he said. “I don’t think it’s anything special to stand up to injustice, its what we’re supposed to do.”

He said during his time in Ottawa he’s stirred up a lot of things and been recognized for a lot of things. But nothing has made him more proud than helping and watching Indigenous youth grow. He said it isn’t the oil, gold or copper that’s Canada’s greatest resource, it’s this younger generation.

“We got to give them education opportunities. We got to give them support for mental health. We got to open all the opportunities because they’re going to make this nation the nation should be.”

Angus said he has no plans to truly settle for long; his band Grievous Angles is back together with a new record out.

He’s also involved in a program that uses music to empower youth in First Nation communities called, “Make Music Matter.”

And he’ll continue to advocate.

“You’ll probably see me out there someplace causing mayhem for justice,” he said.

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