We had the pleasure of meeting with Nathan Wright, the Chief Operating Officer of the Chiefs of Ontario (COO). Mr. Wright has had a fascinating career working with the COO and he taught us all a lot about the COO, the Assembly of First Nations, and the important issues for First Nations in Ontario.
In our meeting, we learned about the coordinating bodies for many First Nations communities across Ontario, such as the Grand Council Treaty #3 in Northwestern Ontario, the Union of Ontario Indians in Central Ontario, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northeastern Ontario, and the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians in Southern Ontario. With such diverse needs in such diverse communities, often times it is challenging to work as a coordinating organization. Yet, Mr. Wright explained to us that, “Every Chief of every community should be seen as the Prime Minister of Canada, they should all be held in that same regard.” Meaning, every community’s individual needs should be held as a top political priority and although succinct messaging is preferred, every community’s autonomy must also be fully respected.
Mr. Wright explained the organizational structure of the COO and informed us about the important initiatives that are a consistent priority for First Nations communities and always a standing agenda item at their highly regarded round-tables; such as health care, education, and economic development, among others. Again, with such diversity, it is important that the COO understands the needs of every community and in order to do their part in assisting to shape the communities in the way those communities envision their own future. Mr. Wright also spoke to us about the treaties of different First Nations and the important obligations that these treaties entail for Canadian governments and First Nations signatories.
Mr. Wright taught us an innumerable amount of things during our meeting with him and we all value his wealth of knowledge and his important role as C.O.O. of COO.