Grand Chief of Treaty #3 Calls for Meeting on Kenora Homeless Shelter

Map of Grand Council Treaty #3
Map of Grand Council Treaty #3

Kenora – NEWS — Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Chief of Treaty #3 is calling for a meeting to bring together First Nations leaders and Kenora Municipal leadership to renew relationships and collectively address present challenges.

“There is a need to share ideas, break down misconceptions and collectively problem-solve,” said Ogichidaa Kavanaugh. “There is an urgent need to convene an Emergency Meeting of Treaty#3 leadership and our municipal Mayors as I believe we are facing a Social Emergency of epidemic proportions.”

The announcement from Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford and representatives of the Kenora District Services Board on the closure of the Kenora Shelter this past week is deeply troubling for many who rely on the shelter beds for their daily survival. The new $1.1 million homeless shelter which opened in March is being temporarily shut down due to the prevalence of illicit drugs, and other alleged criminal activity. It will be shuttered on August 12 for over a month, at the height of tourism season.

Kenora, along with other towns in Northwestern Ontario, has struggled to address the meth crisis and accompanying issues of homelessness, human trafficking, and increased calls to emergency services and hospital visits.

Ogichidaa Kavanaugh and the Treaty #3 leadership have been addressing the escalating issue of drug addiction within communities and the accompanying issues of violence, vandalism, increasing intervention to individuals and families by social services, health and police.

The overwhelming issues brought about a Special Chiefs meeting of Treaty #3 leadership and health Directors to develop a strategy and initiate a response to the growing crisis. The Treaty #3 Drug Task Force meets monthly to initiate community-specific and grassroots solutions and recently released the Community Toolkit to support the Treaty 3 First Nations in addressing the issues.

It’s been reported that Ne-Chee Friendship Centre Executive Director Patty Fairfield, whose organization administers the shelter, was informed of the shutdown two hours before the announcement and says her organization was not involved in the decision.

“We share the land that we all call home and we must learn to work together for a common goal,” said Ogichidaa Kavanaugh. “Both municipal and First Nations leaders realize that ongoing, constructive relationships could avoid potential disputes in the future and could foster constructive working relationships on a variety of mutual concerns in a region shared by all.”

Successful past partnerships between Treaty #3 First Nations and municipalities include the 2005 identification of Rat Portage as an important historic site through the Common Ground Initiative, and the recent expression of goodwill between the Town of Fort Frances and Agency One First Nations through the signing of the Declaration of Intent and Friendship to form a partnership between the two.

“These situations highlight the importance of reconciliation as a journey that communities can undertake together to better reflect and acknowledge our shared history and collectively work towards our improved future,” said Ogichidaa Kavanaugh.