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January 24, 2002
Letter to Jim Flaherty from Councillor Jane Pitfield
The following letter was sent today to Jim Flaherty, Ontario Finance Minister,
from City Councillor Jane Pitfield, Chair of the City's Aboriginal Affairs


January 24, 2002

The Hon. Jim Flaherty
Jim Flaherty Campaign
1 Adelaide Street East
P.O. box 192, Suite 800
Toronto ON M5C 2V9

Dear Minister Flaherty:

I am writing as Chair of the City of Toronto's Aboriginal Affairs Committee,
which held its monthly meeting with members of the urban aboriginal community
on January 23, 2002.

Our Committee heard many concerns about the lack of understanding of aboriginal
issues. We also heard concerns about the inadequacy of funding, programming and
policies directed toward this community.

The overall message brought forward at this meeting was very clearly that this
ignorance leads to discrimination and in particular to the negative portrayal
of aboriginal people. Over fifty percent of the aboriginal population of Canada
do not live on reserve but in urban centres. At present there is no strategy in
place to respond to the unique needs of these people.

Members of my Committee and the community members with whom we met discussed
the remarks, which you recently made, about this community and their
relationship to the health care system. It is incorrect to assume that the
federal health care dollars available are adequate for the needs of the
aboriginal community or that the standard of care is higher than that available
to others.

With the recent appointment of Mr. James Bartleman, a member of the Minjikanig
First Nation of Ontario, as the next Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, we believe
that a more positive attitude is developing in this country towards the
aboriginal people. Not only do your remarks undermine this attitude; they are
both hurtful and harmful. They encourage and feed upon stereotypes and serve
only to increase the hurdles faced by this community.

I challenge you to take steps to learn more about aboriginal people and to use
whatever authority you have to improve their lives and conditions in Toronto
and the rest of the Province.

Yours truly

Jane Pitfield
Chair, Aboriginal Affairs Committee

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