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In 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Sport (MCTS) released the province’s first ever Culture Strategy.

The strategy is broad: it is based on working in partnership with Ministries government-wide, as well as in partnership with Indigenous communities. Particularly related to First Nations peoples, the Culture strategy is informed by the principles articulated in the 2015 Political Accord, and in the commitments included in the as-of-then unreleased provincial response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in The Journey Together. In fact, many of the commitments in The Journey Together are fulfilled through the Culture Strategy.

The Strategy is guided by six guiding principles in order to achieve four key goals. Of those guiding principles, one is “respect for Indigenous peoples.” The four key goals are:

  1. Promote cultural engagement and inclusion;
  2. Strengthen culture in communities;
  3. Fuel the creative economy;
  4. Promote the value of the arts throughout government.

During consultations in the lead-up to the release of the Strategy, MCTS heard from Indigenous communities that the most important need was for access to culture for Indigenous children and youth, which is reflected in the action plan that follows the report.

Impact

While the entire Culture Strategy will impact First Nations, the goals of promoting cultural engagement and inclusion and strengthening the culture in communities has the most direct impact on First Nations.

The Strategy utilizes strategic funding and partnerships with First Nations as outlined in The Journey Together. For example, the Indigenous Culture Fund (previously the Indigenous Cultural Revitalization Fund) is allocated through this strategy according to the commitments made in The Journey Together. The same is true of the Indigenous Culture Camps that both documents commit to.

Also, the strategy points to a partnership between Science North, a government agency that provides science programming for northern and Indigenous communities, and Northern Nishnawbe Education Council. This partnership facilitates programming for five fly-in communities in Northern Ontario.

Beyond specific programs, the strategy also commits to “developing a more formal and lasting relationship with Indigenous communities to engage on a broad range of cultural interests and priorities.” This will have benefits for Indigenous communities as they have access to resources, which will in turn build the cultural vibrancy of all of Ontario.

By setting out to strengthen culture in communities (Goal 2), the strategy enables programs and partnerships to benefit Indigenous children and youth. Broadly speaking this includes investments at the municipal or First Nation level through community museums, libraries, and historical/cultural sites. Specifically, the strategy commits to partnerships with the 45 First Nation public libraries to fill existing needs, review the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists to better reflect the need to engage with Indigenous communities, develop a framework to improve conservation of archeological artefacts, and bringing together agencies that will increase awareness and understanding of Indigenous histories, culture, knowledge, and ongoing contributions by Indigenous peoples to the cultural life of Ontario.

COO’s Advocacy Efforts

Since the Culture Strategy is so broadly based, it impacts many of COO’s priority areas.

  • Burial Sites (Justice)
  • Education
  • Social Services
  • Economic Development, especially through the tourism sector
  • Youth
  • Environment

Full Text of the Ontario’s Culture Strategy can be found here.

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