5 Anishinabek First Nations in Ontario sign an agreement with Ottawa that would allow them to govern themselves

Five communities of the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario have signed an agreement with the federal government that would see them move away from the Indian Act and achieve self-government.

Moose Deer Point, Wahnapitae, Nipissing, Magnetawan and Zhiibaahaasing First Nations signed the historic agreement this week with the federal government.

“The Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement is the first self-government agreement of its kind in Ontario and marks an Indian Act milestone for signatory Anishinabek First Nations,” a federal press release said Wednesday.

The agreement, if passed, would give First Nations the power to make their own decisions about how to hold elections, who their citizens are and how their governments will operate. They would also have authority over how best to protect and promote their language and culture.

Federal legislation must now be passed for the agreement to come into effect, which means that the parts of the Indian Act that deal with governance would no longer apply to First Nations who join it.

We look forward to continuing to work with our Anishinabek partners on all of our shared priorities.— Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Grand Council of the Anishinabek Nation Chief Reg Niganobe said while five member communities have signed the accord now, any of the political organization’s other 34 First Nations could decide to sign in the future.

Niganobe said the five First Nations have taken a “giant step”.

“It’s a long and daunting act, especially to step away from the Indian Act and the comfort zone that’s been created there,” Niganobe said. “We know that the Indian Act is not the most favorable legislation for Indigenous nations, but that’s what we’ve known how to do for so long now.”

2 decades of negotiations

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said in a press release that the agreement would renew a “nation-to-nation relationship with the signatory Anishinabek First Nations.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with our Anishinabek partners on all of our shared priorities, implementing their inherent right to self-determination, and supporting their inspiring visions of a better future for their citizens.

It took two decades of negotiations to reach the agreement, which was approved by each signatory First Nation through community votes.