Isadore Day was elected the new Ontario Regional Chief at the 41st annual All Ontario Chiefs Conference (AOCC) held at the Anishinabe of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation Treaty #3 Territory on June 17.
Day is a member of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Executive and the Chair of the Political Confederacy for the Chiefs of Ontario. He is taking the place of former Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, who is retiring after 28 years in politics, including three years as Regional Chief.
Born in Elliot Lake, Day worked in construction, commercial fishing, and social services before being elected as chief of Serpent River First Nation in 2005.
“With 12 years experience at a community level and having participated at the regional and national level, I felt it was time,” says Day. “Many chiefs had asked me to run, so I think it was a natural progression of where I ended up in my work to help First Nation communities.”
Day says the biggest issue facing First Nation communities—and one he will work to rectify—is insufficient recognition of the treaty relationship.
“When we entered into treaties, our ancestors certainly wanted much more than what we have today. We see poverty, social problems, lack of infrastructure, and lack of adequate housing,” explains Day. “We signed treaties and our treaty partner flourishes much greater than us—there’s a problem with that.”
It’s a concern he’s been hearing about from First Nations across Canada.
“I think the greatest issue is more of a fundamental issue: the respect for treaties in this country. It’s time that the government implement treaties and look at how we enforce those treaties.”
Day says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 recommendations are an “excellent starting point.”
As Regional Chief, Day will also be focusing on understanding issues unique to northern First Nation communities.
“I became very interested in why there seems to be a disconnect between the North and the South. Let’s face it, there are northern issues, and these are very real and distinct issues apart from the issues that we experience in the South for the simple reason of travel and distance,” says Day.
The Northern Journal is Day’s project that will get him into northern communities to speak with residents on their particular issues and what support they need from the Ontario Regional Chief.
“That’s one of the major things that I’m going to be working on—really trying to build a stronger relationship with the northern First Nations,” adds Day.
As part of his Northern Journal project, Day will be in Pikangikum on July 24.
To stay up-to-date with Day’s actions as Ontario Regional Chief, follow along on Twitter at @ChiefDay.