Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says the 2015 Ontario budget does not answer how Ontario will work with First Nations over the next year. The budget, which projects slight increases in First Nations spending, contains no new programs or services to close the gap between First Nations and Ontarians. Ontario will follow through on previous promises to help remote First Nations in the north connect to the province’s power grid and pledged to build infrastructure within the Ring of Fire region; and some First Nations will benefit from reduced energy bills under the newly announced Ontario Electricity Support Program. However, Ontario’s intention to prosecute more First Nations for possessing raw leaf tobacco is meeting with criticism. “First Nations have continually called on Ontario to drop its discriminatory assault on First Nations tobacco. We will continue to oppose and challenge every effort Ontario makes to violate First Nations rights and disrespect our cultural ties to tobacco,” said Beardy. The trade of tobacco and tobacco-related products has evolved into a commercial commodity that supports many First Nation families particularly in Six Nations, Kahnawake and Akwesasne communities.
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