The new Ontario Regional Chief will be chosen today during a virtual election, with two local candidates vying for the top spot with the Chiefs of Ontario.
The two candidates – Larry Sault of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and Nathan Wright, a Six Nations Elected Councillor – both cite further investigation into hidden graves at residential schools and a post-pandemic plan for First Nations as top issues to tackle if they get elected.
Chiefs from Ontario’s 133 First Nations will be voting electronically today via the One Feather voting system after outgoing Chief Roseanne Archibald announced her intention to run for national chief with the Assembly of First Nations.
Sault is a former councillor and former chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
After the discovery of 215 children’s bodies in a hidden grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, Sault said there is bound to be more, and he joins other chiefs in calling for further investigation of the grounds at residential school sites in Ontario.
“There must be a strategy for identification of more burial sites. As regional chief, I commit to establish a framework for mass and unmarked graves that meet human rights standards, ensure data collection and record keeping are in order (and) ensure proper criminal investigations are in place so that families of these children can heal and be properly compensated.”
Sault said a process should be designed by elders and residential school survivors for how the burial sites should be treated and that all children are returned home for their final resting place.
Since the Kamloops discovery, three more former Canadian residential school sites uncovered unmarked graves.
Sault also wants to see the Chiefs of Ontario restructured, stressing it is not a treaty holder and should only act as an advocacy organization.
As for Covid-19, Sault said the pandemic resulted in First Nations becoming even more dependent on government programming than ever before.
He calls for a “restart process” that will enable First Nations to participate in a “new normal” that encourages greater economic self-sufficiency.
“Give me the mandate and I will act,” he says.
Wright, a current Six Nations elected councillor and former Chief Operating Officer with the Chiefs of Ontario, also prioritizes Covid recovery if elected, saying, “Governments will look to Chiefs of Ontario for advice. I will respond by collaborating with our leaders so funding reaches communities and urban citizens where they’re needed most. Specifically, I will call for mental health and recovery resources and find ways to assist communities with determining their needs, gaps, solutions, at their direction.”
Grand Council Treaty #3 is hosting this year’s 47th annual all-Ontario chiefs conference, the first-ever held virtually. The theme of this year’s conference is “Healing for Generations to Come.”
Nominations took place on Tuesday afternoon. A total of 6 nominees were put forward including: Nathan Wright of Six Nations; Larry Sault from Mississaugas of the Credit; Sasha Maracle was nominated by the Chippewas of Nawash; Elaine Johnston of Serpent River; Jason Smallboy from the Moose Cree First Nation and Nishnabe Aski Nation and Glen Hare, former Anishnabek Nation Grand Chief from the M’Cheigeeng First Nation.
Elections will be during Wednesday’s session of the Chiefs of Ontario 47th Annual All Ontario Chiefs Conference at 3:00 p.m. EST. The meeting will be live-streamed via the Chiefs of Ontario on YouTube.