After creating a 35-year career based on protecting First Nations rights, Charles Fox has accepted the call from the Kathleen Wynne Liberals to run for that party in the June 7 provincial election in the riding of Algoma Manitoulin.
In an interview with Elliot Lake Today, Fox said that for the past 10 years he’s been looking at the idea of making the transition from Native to non-Native politics. He says they really aren’t that different. Either way, he’s dealing with people and their needs, hopes and desires. During his life Charles has been a leader in bringing together government, business and community groups and First Nations. In his words, “I have spent my life fighting to create more opportunities for our communities and building bridges between Indigenous and non Indigenous people.”
Fox retired after serving most of two terms as the elected regional chief of First Nations for the Chiefs of Ontario in 2005. From 1994 through 2000 he had been Grand Chief of Nishnawbe First Nation, a position where he represented 49 Northern First Nations. More recently since 2012, he and his wife Meladina Hardy have been operating the Penasi Group Homes In Thunder Bay and running a consulting business based in the lakehead city.
Fox calls Kathleen Wynne the greatest champion of First Nations ever in the Premier’s office. He cites steps she’s taken to strengthen revenue sharing for resources while boosting First Nations health care and making progress on the Ring of Fire through respect for the province’s Indigenous partners. His long range goal is to create an Indigenous People’s Party. He concedes it’s a tall order requiring resources, a strong will and time. His purpose would be to fully express First Nations issues.
He makes it clear that it was the Liberals who approached him to run in this spring’s campaign. If elected in another Wynne government, he’s been promised a cabinet position at Queen’s Park. The Liberal plan includes building a healthier, stronger Ontario through investments in health care, public funding for medications for everyone under 25 through OHIP and a commitment to expand the current publicly funded program now in place for medication for everyone over 65-years-old. Fox says a PC government under Doug Ford would means cuts to the promised 15 dollar an hour minimum wage. He says the Tories have given up the fight against climate change, will not make big polluters pay and will slice billions of dollars through cuts in public services.
As a long time Native leader, Fox said he spent much of his time as an outsider looking while trying to get across the First Nations point of view on unemployment, health resources, education, natural resources, youth and other issues. He recalled he would often sit in the gallery in the Ontario Legislature in Toronto or at the House of Commons in Ottawa and “button hole” ministers he wanted to speak with after their appearances in those chambers. It was one way to get them to listen to his First Nations take on the issues of the day.
Fox is a survivor of 8 years in a residential school. He’s a hunter, trapper and fisher. He says, “Only Ontario Liberals will respect our right to First Nations self government and keep essential services that northerners rely on.” Originally from Pickle Lake, he attended Algoma University and has family living throughout northern Ontario.
In the vast riding of Algoma Manitoulin, with a population of only 67,000, Fox says the issues he wants to drill down on in this campaign are unemployment, societal and health concerns and business improvement. He wants to take the issues that are being discussed province wide and localize them in Elliot lake and in the riding’s many other communities. He does allow that if the PC’s are elected under Doug Ford he can adjust to the role of being a strong voice in the opposition.
One of his greatest personal disappointments is that Canada along with a number of other commonwealth countries such as New Zealand and Australia - plus the US - did not vote to endorse the United Nations Resolution for the Rights of Indigenous People when it was first put forward. But In 2010, Canada finally came on board. Another regret he says is that the Trudeau government, for the most part, has not acted on the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on ways to improve First Nations communities and the lives of the nation’s Indigenous People. He says at the same time, the Ontario Liberals are moving towards that reconciliation.
As for encouraging more immigrants to settle in northern Ontario, he asks, “What benefits will more immigration bring to the North?” He adds, “We still have a lot of building to do on our own and we need to work on ways to lower our unemployment rate.”