AMC Responds to Manitoba Throne Speech
November 22, 2023
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – Following the recent Throne Speech by the Government of Manitoba on November 21, 2023, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) acknowledges the government’s focus on critical issues, including affordability, child and family services reformation, healthcare, homelessness and housing, economic development, and housing. The AMC is especially attentive to the commitment to “leave no one behind” and the willingness to collaborate with First Nations Governments.
In the Manitoba Throne Speech, the provincial government lifted prohibitions on direct dealings between Manitoba Hydro and First Nations. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs urges the further establishment of a First Nations On-Reserve Residential customer class, citing the need to address energy poverty and enhance bill affordability for First Nations citizens. This initiative aligns with principles of social justice and equity, representing a concrete step toward reconciliation and a commitment to equitable access to essential services, including electricity.
“The AMC has advocated on the issue of hydro affordability for First Nations for several years,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Restoring this customer class acknowledges the unique challenges faced by First Nations and provides tailored solutions to alleviate energy cost burdens. This move would be a concrete step towards reconciliation and a commitment to ensuring all First Nations citizens have equitable access to essential services, including electricity.”
Child and Family Services
The AMC calls on the Kinew government to work with First Nations Leadership to transform the provincial child welfare system.
“The AMC has been championing this work since 2015 when the AMC received the mandate to establish the First Nations Family Advocate Office (FNFAO),” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “First Nations never surrendered jurisdiction over children and families, and what we often see is the family unit being disrupted due to symptoms of a more significant issue that were not of our own making. So, it is refreshing to hear that the Kinew government is committed to reforming child and family services. Still, that work must be done in collaboration with the AMC to address the complex realities of First Nations – a pan-Indigenous approach cannot adequately comprehend nor meet the needs of our people.”
Economic Development and Economic Reconciliation
The AMC calls for amendments to the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA) and Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) process to enable First Nations full participation in economic development.
“First Nations Leadership in Manitoba must be the self-governing administrator and recipient of fiscal transfers for services to First Nations citizens, which currently flow through the province. For healthy, sustainable economies, Nations, families and citizens, Canada and the province must work with First Nations Leadership for improved economic and social development outcomes,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.
The AMC collaborates with the province to address healthcare inequities in the North through a new airport, aligning with our mandate to strengthen First Nations.
“The AMC emphasizes the need for First Nations-specific involvement in developing equitable healthcare solutions. We strongly support Black River First Nations’ potential partnership with the province for Pine Falls Hospital, highlighting the crucial role of collaboration between government and First Nations Leadership,” said Grand Chief Merrick. “However, the AMC urges attention to critical concerns regarding portable MRIs, including diagnostics, cultural competence, data security, and collaboration with the Health Sciences Centre. The AMC eagerly anticipates a meeting with the province to address these concerns.”
Regarding women’s health, AMC expresses enthusiasm but seeks clarification on communication and collaboration strategies. The AMC also seeks clarity on the government’s HR strategy and voices concerns about ER openings and surgical availability, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive strategy to mitigate negative impacts on medical transportation.
The AMC appreciates the government’s commitment to addressing the homelessness crisis and collaborates with key partners, including Marc Chipman and End Homelessness Winnipeg. The N’Dinewamak (All Our Relatives) shelter has played a crucial role in this effort since the Covid pandemic. While commending the plan to end chronic homelessness and provide harm-reduction support, AMC urges intensive collaboration with First Nations, highlighting their overrepresentation among the homeless. In addition, AMC has much to offer in terms of providing comprehensive feedback on a substance use and addiction strategy, emphasizing universal access to opioid treatment, support for Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT)-Sublocade, and the mandate of OAT for prescribers in First Nations. The recommendations include cost-effective training, learning from successful models like Alberta, establishing culturally appropriate treatment centers, and advocating for naloxone training for released inmates, stressing the importance of awareness and monitoring for successful implementation.
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick fully supports the government’s commitment to 2SLGBTQ+ students. She agrees that fostering a sense of safety, respect, and belonging is crucial for the well-being and success of all First Nations students. Grand Chief Merrick noted that this position aligns with the recent AMC Chiefs-in-Assembly resolution to create an AMC Two-Spirit LGBTQQIA+ Council. She looks forward to partnering with the province of Manitoba and school divisions through the Council in order to involve First Nations parents, educators, and students in creating a safe and inclusive education environment.
The recent Manitoba Throne Speech represents positive strides, particularly in the areas of affordability, child and family services, economic development, education and healthcare. Grand Chief Cathy Merrick underscores the imperative of collaboration in transforming the provincial child welfare system and achieving economic reconciliation. While supporting healthcare initiatives, the AMC urges focused attention on specific concerns and seeks clarification on strategies.
Regarding homelessness, the AMC commends the commitment and stresses the necessity for extensive collaboration, offering comprehensive feedback on the substance use and addiction strategy.
The AMC remains steadfast in its commitment to collaborative endeavours that prioritize the well-being of First Nations citizens, fostering a more inclusive and promising future for all Manitobans. However, the AMC calls on the province to adopt a First Nations-led approach to address these issues and emphasizes that implementing pan-Indigenous strategies without addressing the unique experiences of First Nations is inadequate at best.
For more information, please contact:
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.