Anishinabek Nation, Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee is a man with a vision which seeks to build a healthy future for First Nation people. He is currently serving his third consecutive term as Grand Council Chief. He also served one term as Grand Council Chief in 1980, the youngest Grand Council Chief ever at 27 years of age. He is the President of the Union of Ontario Indians and the Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity.
From his home, in Aundeck Omni Kaning, Grand Chief Madahbee reflected on the outcome of the Federal Election 2015, and his hope for the future visa vie the new Liberal government, and the direction Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take our country.
“I’ve had occasion to meet with Justin Trudeau, prior to him becoming the Leader of the Federal Liberal Party. He attended a function to help in elevating the profile, and fundraising efforts for an alternative high school in a community. He took the time, to go up and down every row, and speak with the 400 participants, or so, that were there. Among those in attendance were young single moms, and young men that had quit school early. I saw this outreach as significant. Education is an important issue for him. Tackling the education issue for First Nations will be a high priority for us. There has been a 2% cap on education spending for many years, and consequently, this has been detrimental to education systems, especially in remote communities. Education is something that should be valued and nurtured.”
Of the last ten years with a Conservative government, under the leadership of (Rt. Hon) Stephen Harper, GCC Madahbee said “The former government had lost touch and forgot who they worked for. The people of Canada. Issues pertaining to environmental protection, veterans, education, water and missing and murdered aboriginal women, found an impenetrable wall where the former government was concerned. I saw the Conservative government as cold. Things were very controlled, to the point where people were muzzled from expressing their views and research. Big business and corporate agendas were not enough to thwart the tide for change away from, what seemed, a heartless policy, especially towards First Nation people.”
Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee spoke about an overall sense of confidence within First Nation leadership with respect to the appointment of Carolyn Bennett as Minister of Indigenous and Aboriginal Affairs. “Carolyn Bennett is a very solid choice. She has been active, through attending First Nation events, which she has done on a regular basis. She has been trying to understand First Nations issues, including attendance to Assembly of First Nation meetings. Through her role as the former Federal Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic, she is very knowledgeable. Her background will lend itself well to tackling issues and working with us towards meaningful solutions. My experience with Carolyn Bennett is that she engages with First Nation people, and leadership around the country.”
In 2011, Carolyn Bennett was re-elected from the riding of Toronto-St. Paul, to serve in the 41st Parliament as Federal Liberal critic for Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
GCC Madahbee shared ” The mitigating factors surrounding the health and well being of our communities are of paramount importance. Poverty, economic development, boiled water, housing and infrastructure needs, as well as education are issues that will require attention. All of these issues are closely tied to the other. Real change will require working on all eight cylinders.”
Safe, potable drinking water has been a frustrating issue for First Nations right across Canada and they have been ringing the alarm bells for a very long time. A recent CBC News investigation revealed that two-thirds of all First Nation communities in Canada have been under at least one drinking water advisory at some time in the last decade. The numbers show that 400 out of 618 First Nations in the country had some kind of water problem between 2004 and 2014. The longest running water advisory is in the Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario, where residents have been boiling their water for 20 years.
“Some of the smaller communities may not need big expensive water treatment plants.” shared GCC Madahbee. “There are other solutions. Smaller units that could treat a cluster of homes for example. People need water today. People are getting sick today. This is a crisis that exists right now. The situation (safe drinking water) in many of our northern communities would not be tolerated in more urban settings.”
The Chiefs of Ontario has set up the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Unit, working as an advisory body for alternative solutions on how to get potable water to remote northern communities. “Through their work with infrastructure and minor capital projects with First Nations communities, they have the technical knowledge base we need to support alternative solutions for potable water.”
Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee describes himself as a very pragmatic man. “The Liberal government won’t be able to tackle everything overnight. We’ll need to exercise patience, but going forward, there are expectations that this government will be able to put things in gear, and move First Nations issues forward in earnest.”
An Anisinabek Nation Assembly will take place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. November 17-19, 2015.
For more information about Anishinabek Nation, visit http://www.anishinabek.ca