“Our voice needs to rise up. Living in the North is not easy,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee at a meeting on January 18, 2020, with the Honourable Marc Miller, Canada’s newest Minister of Indigenous Services Canada.

Grand Chief Settee took the time to outline many of the issues of concern for Northern First Nations during his initial meeting with the new Minister.

Grand Chief Settee standing with Minister Marc Miller

Grand Chief Garrison Settee (left) meets with the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada

Some messages he shared during the meeting with the Minister are as follows:

“The Northern issues have been neglected for a long time. But we are here at this table to say we do not want to be neglected. We want that to change. We say that respectfully, we want to see change in the North.

When we come to meet with a Minister it is very important, it is very significant. I know that you take this very seriously. I respect you a lot for learning Mohawk.

We want to have a very meaningful relationship with your office. I believe that we need to see results from these meetings.

We welcomed the funding for Clinical Care Transformation, $43 million afforded to the North. I want to continue to say that the North is important and we want that to continue to be on the radar.

Northern people are special people. I am very proud of the people I represent, the Cree, the Dene, and the Oji-Cree. They have gone through a lot. Thousands have gone through residential schools and they survive to this day.

An 85 per cent unemployment rate in most First Nations is not acceptable.

Transportation is a challenge for people living in remote and isolated communities. The quality of health care that every person deserves is a challenge.

MKO is proposing a roundtable on issues focused on the North. A roundtable, engaged with our people and your people, to move things along and so things don’t get missed in the day to day.

[Education, housing, and power are a few of the issues he raised]

People should be able to have wooden stoves in their houses. We want to be proactive so that we don’t only react to emergencies. At least if the power goes out people can heat their homes.

Fifteen communities without all-weather roads and it’s 2020. I don’t think we can continue to live like that. I think that should be a mission for the Government of Canada. Tadoule Lake, Shamattawa… people waiting for four hours for a flight and then it’s cancelled, and that happens every day.

High-speed Internet is needed in the North. We are going to start pushing for that. There are First Nations that are crying out for us to help them and we need to help them.”

Grand Chief Settee shared more concerns than the ones listed in this post. He provided the Minister with a document outlining MKO’s concerns in greater detail. He thanks Minister Miller and his team for making the time to meet and listen to the concerns of Northern First Nations in Manitoba. He looks forward to a strong working relationship with Minister Miller.