THUNDER BAY – The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) wrapped up the 43rd Annual General Assembly on Sunday (November 23/14), which brought together over 100 delegates from all across Ontario. The theme of this year’s assembly was “Honouring the Path of Our Grandmothers”, which served to honour the lessons and leadership of our grandmothers who came before us and blazed the trail for strength and growth that ONWA now follows in the continued pursuit of advancements for Aboriginal women and their families in Ontario.
In addition to the 100 Aboriginal women who attended as delegates, Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer, Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David de Launay, Deputy Minister of Children and Youth Services Alexander Bezzina, Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle, MP John Rafferty, and Paul Pugh as the Acting Mayor of Thunder Bay, also took time out of their busy schedules to attend and provide supportive remarks to the Assembly.
“This year’s assembly was not only a successful event in terms of business and resolutions, but I think it was a historic turning point for ONWA in terms of the level of support and visibility we have achieved at the provincial level,” says Dr. Dawn Harvard, ONWA President. “Having such high profile and influential politicians like Premier Wynne and Minister Zimmer make the trip to Thunder Bay just to meet our women and show their support, really goes to show how much progress we’ve made and instills such profound confidence in what we can accomplish in the coming years if we continue to work together.”
Having Ontario’s Premier attend ONWA’s general assembly was an exciting first, as it has never before occurred in ONWA’s 43 years. Not only did Wynne and Zimmer provide opening remarks on Saturday, but they visited each region’s caucus meeting on Friday evening to personally introduce themselves to each delegate, and attended Saturday morning’s sunrise ceremony. Both Wynne and Zimmer called for more collaboration between the provincial government and Aboriginal groups, as well as supported ONWA’s call for a National Public Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women during their addresses.
Erin Corston was blown away by the level of support that ONWA received at the AGA, which was the first one for her in her role as ONWA’s Executive Director. “It’s extremely encouraging for provincial leaders show their support the way they did this weekend. They clearly recognize the hard work and commitment of ONWA and its local membership,” she says. “We are witnessing a shift within government, and new unprecedented opportunities to create systems change.”
The delegation passed a number of resolutions over the weekend, with the majority focusing on three priority areas: ending violence against Aboriginal women, child and family services, and environmental protection. The resolutions that were passed will set the tone for ONWA going forward in 2015.
Elections were also held for the Board of Directors which welcomed three new members: Georgette Murray from Biidaajiwun Inc., Cecilia Airns from the Circle of Anishnabeque, and Kelly Anderson from the Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle. ONWA welcomes these three new women to the board and congratulates them on their success and dedication.