From the Hill – John Rafferty MP


OTTAWA – For this week’s column I would like to share a letter that I sent to Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl regarding the Couchiching toll-booth protest that was set to begin last Friday at noon on Highway 11 just outside of Fort Frances.

This was the fourth letter that I have sent or hand delivered to the Minister on the issue, and my request was always simple – meet with the Couchiching leadership to discuss the outstanding federal issues.  Despite last week being a ‘break week’ where parliament was not sitting the Minister decided to not even make a phone call to, little less meet, the leadership of the Couchiching First Nation.

My next letter to the Minister will indicate that burying his head in the sand and hoping difficult issues go away is not leadership. Until then, please see my most recent letter that summarizes what I action I have taken to date on our behalf regarding this matter.

All the best for now, John.

Tuesday May 18, 2010

Honourable Chuck Strahl

Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Strahl,

I am writing to you again in regards to the concerns expressed by Couchiching First Nation related to a serious public health issue arising from the contamination of residential land with dioxins other chemicals and the continued public use of land claimed by Couchiching upon which Highway 11 has been constructed.

On Thursday April 29, 2010, I wrote both yourself and your colleague, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, to express my concern regarding these long standing and unresolved issues. In that correspondence, I also indicated that the community had announced their intent to take public actions on May 21, 2010 if those issues were not addressed. At that time, I requested a meeting to discuss how an agreement could be reached in this matter.

I followed up with another letter in regards to this matter on Monday May 3,, 2010. At that time, I received a request from the office of Chief Chuck McPherson for an in-person meeting with you and myself in regard to the issues in question. In my letter to you I noted that time is of the essence in this matter and Chief McPherson has requested that this meeting take place as soon as possible.

Again on Thursday May 6, 2010, another letter was sent to you. In that letter, I expressed the concerns of Chief McPherson regarding some disturbing comments made by Acting Regional Director General Leigh Jessen, in the presence of himself, Ms. Jessen and Acting Associate Regional Director General Joseph Young.  At that time, I again requested a meeting with Chief McPherson, indicating his willingness to meet with you either in Ottawa or any place of your choosing.  All of this correspondence has of course been in addition to our numerous personal conversations on this matter.

With May 21, 2010 and the commencement of the public action but a few days away, I again implore you to meet with Chief McPherson as quickly as possible. As I have stated in past correspondence, the leadership of Couchiching has continually indicated publically that their goal is to come to a satisfactory agreement in regards to these concerns. In your capacity as a Minister representing the Crown and the Government of Canada, I hope you will recognize this desire and accept this urgent request to discuss these matters further with the leadership of the Couchiching First Nation as soon as possible.



John Rafferty, MP

Thunder Bay – Rainy River

CC:       Chief Chuck McPherson, Couchiching First Nation and council

Mayor Roy Avis, Town of Fort Frances and council

Howard Hampton, MPP – Kenora – Rainy River

To view a copy of the original letter, please visit:

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