Latest Policy Bytes

Charting a New Path: Riding the “Warm Wind” in First Nations Education

December 11, 2015 - “A warm wind is blowing across Canada,” Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde is fond of saying, and the roles have reversed. After a so-called “decade of darkness” in First Nations-Ottawa relations, it’s time for First Nations to come up with “a plan” of their own.

Does Northern Ontario Need more people?

December 7, 2015 - The demographic shift is upon us, and has been for a while. Our overall population is falling and our total population is aging. Indigenous population is on the rise but, even there, we see early indications that as economic and social improvements occur population growth slows.

You too can write for this blog

November 30, 2015 - Northern Policy Institute exists to educate and engage all stakeholders interested in the future of Northern Ontario. We seek to encourage informed and respectful policy discussion and debate on issues impacting our region.

We the North?

November 23, 2015 - Northern Policy Institute President and CEO, Charles Cirtwill, was once introduced as hailing from the far north. Charles is actually based out of Northern Policy Institute’s Thunder Bay office, which hardly qualifies as “far north.” According to Ontario’s 2010 Far North Act, the far north is defined as the lands located north of the Woodland Caribou and Wabakimi Provincial Parks. Thunder Bay sits approximately 200 kilometers below the southern boundary of Wabakimi, which is definitely not the far north. When Stephen Leacock wrote Adventures of the Far North in 1914, he certainly wasn’t talking about Fort William or Port Arthur, his backdrop was unquestionably the Canadian arctic. Moreover, there are dozens of communities in Ontario that are situated farther north than Thunder Bay. Fort Severn First Nation is arguably the most northerly community in Ontario, located near the western shore of Hudson Bay. The most polar community accessible by year-round road transportation is Pickle Lake and it is still 538 kilometers northwest of Thunder Bay. Let’s also not forget that places such as Kenora, Neskantaga, and Marten Falls are all farther north than the Lakehead but also do not qualify as “far north.” As a helpful reference guide, we will outline some of the limitations associated with the term “north,” and most importantly, we will be reviewing what Northern Ontario is, where it is located and hopefully, dispel some misconceptions about the region. So please take a seat, Northern Policy Institute’s geography lesson is now in session.

Education is Not Advocacy

November 16, 2015 - I had a fascinating meeting with the then finance minister of New Brunswick several years ago. The meeting has come to mind often in the past two years as I travel about Northern Ontario and explain to people the difference between a think tank and an advocacy group. Or, at least the difference between Northern Policy Institute and the research branch for the “northern lobby”.

Northern Ontario bids farewell to a great leader

November 13, 2015 - On Saturday, November 8, 2015, O’Connor Mayor, Ron Nelson, passed away, leaving fellow colleagues, municipal and regional leaders, and everyone at Northern Policy Institute to mourn the loss of a true champion for Northern Ontario.

Living Off-the-Grid in Northern Ontario

November 9, 2015 - In late July 2015 the CBC reported that a Pan Canadian Task Force to Reduce Use of Diesel Fuel in Remote Communities was established by Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. Ontario’s Ministry of Energy press release noted that throughout the country “there are nearly 300 off-grid communities with a total population of approximately 200,000 people.”  At first blush this number seemed to be very high, but how does this break down for Northern Ontario and where are these numbers coming from? The information was taken from a 2011 report by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRC) on the status of remote/off-grid communities in Canada.

We can help people actually afford to save for retirement

November 2, 2015 - Like many other Ontarians, I have been following the debate about the introduction of our very own provincial pension plan with some interest. The latest reasoning put forward in support of the plan has me truly perplexed. As the argument goes, people can’t afford to save for retirement so we must force them to do so. It seems we have decided that it is more important that someone be able to purchase groceries in 40 years from now when they are 65 than it is for them to be able to purchase groceries today when they are 25.

Filling the Education Gap: Teach for Canada's First Nations Education Initiative

October 20, 2015 - Every September a fresh crop of hundreds of mostly novice teachers head North to teach in remote, mostly First Nations populated communities. Hired by northern public school districts or aboriginal education authorities, the recruits arrive flush with excitement and prepared to ‘sink or swim’ on a mostly unfamiliar educational terrain.