THUNDER BAY – Wasaya Group which is wholly owned by twelve area First Nation Communities have responded to the need that has been building over the past two years to designate their own Ring of Fire team whose prime focus is to work with Communities and Businesses that have involvement in the mining and industrial sector – with heavy emphasis on the Ring of Fire region.
Wasaya Group Expanding
“We have been around for almost 25 years now building business models and partnerships that have been successful for First Nation people and those who partner with us, “ stated Wasaya Group President & CEO, Tom S. Kamenawatamin.
“We are constantly being asked to help develop Ring of Fire business models and partnerships by stakeholders in the Ring of Fire region and by others who are interested in offering their services and products towards the development there. We have met with many of the major players in the Ring of Fire (ROF) over the past two years and have been asked to become more active in fostering business development so that the people in the region can benefit from the developments in their region. We are often asked who our ROF people are – so we decided it was time to announce that information.”
Wasaya’s key people responsible for Ring of Fire business development are Roger Oskineegish, Gordon Wabasse, and Wasya Group President/CEO, Tom S. Kamenawatamin.
“Both Roger and Gordon are from the Matawa region, Roger Oskineegish is from Nibinamik First Nation and Gordon Wabasse is from Webequie First Nation. Both have served in political leadership capacity for their communities and are very knowledgeable about the Wasaya Group of Companies. I myself am from Bearskin Lake First Nation and prior to being with Wasaya, served for 13 years as Chief of my community as well as a variety of other business roles.”
Roger, Gordon, and Tom will be able to communicate effectively and interpret community business goals and aspirations and implement them through partnerships with the mining industry.
Kamenawatamin stated that “Day by day, the Wasaya Group of Companies, is moving closer to becoming a “one stop shop” for mining companies and others who seek to work in the north.”
“With the signing of the housing agreement between the Chinese Group (PTF CHINA) and Dowland Contracting, Wasaya Dowland Ventures LP is in a good position to make a positive difference to replace the many mold infested houses with mold free units that will result in safer and healthier living conditions for the families”. Wasaya Dowland will also be in a position to service the industrial sector with their camp requirements within the Ring of Fire development and others”.
“Presently the lifespan of our reserve houses has an average of 10 to 15 years. The targeted lifespan of the new housing type will be almost doubled resulting in enormous savings. This approach offers a better chance of catching up with the shortage of housing. This will also allow Wasaya Dowland to bring in Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s housing department and work together on our common goals which are more houses built annually. More environmentally friendly housing. We want to supply fire retardant and safer houses that exceeds the minimal standards that are currently being used for social housing. We intend to lobby the government to raise the minimum standards they have set for First Nation homes because the standards the government has set are not adequate for the harsh climates faced by our communities. Wasaya Dowland intends to put our best efforts towards becoming part of the solution for the community housing crisis”.
Importantly for the local economy, Wasaya Dowland also has an opportunity to set up a factory in Thunder Bay producing jobs and boosting the local economy.
Patrick McGuinness, President and CEO Dowland Contracting Ltd. announced an agreement to provide steel-based housing between PTH Canada and PTH China has been reached. The ceremonial signing took place on October 17th at the Fort William Historical Park Visitor Centre.
This special event was organized by Wasaya Dowland Ventures LP in consultation with numerous organizations throughout Northwestern Ontario committed to the ongoing economic development of the region, including the Federal Government, the Government of Ontario, the City of Thunder Bay, First Nations organizations and Confederation College. “Our shared objective is to initiate an exciting long-term investment process to improve accommodations at mining sites, housing for First Nations communities and housing for new growth associated with the Ring of Fire developments across Northern Ontario” said McGuinness.
Kamenawatamin shared, “In the Wasaya model, our people are the owners of the companies and they are the main benefactors of any profits and benefits that their companies generate. They also benefit from the employment our companies provide. When we bought out our non-native partners in 1998 there was only about 2% First Nation employment. Now we are at over 40% and many employees have progressed to key management positions. We have provided many more with their first real job experiences and there are many who have gone on to successful careers elsewhere. We are all about opportunities for our youth and for our communities. Recently in Thunder Bay, the City voted to accept our Pilot Project to open a new Youth Centre in Thunder Bay that will be a key support to students attending local high schools far from their First Nation communities. Local youth will also benefit from our efforts and those of our partners, because this is the Wasaya way and it is faithful to the original vision of our elders.”
A demo model of a 2-3 bedroom steel frame based home will be built shortly in Thunder Bay. The demo will be open to the public and interested parties to inspect and become familiar with the company’s product lineup.