THUNDER BAY – Chiefs and Mayors in Northwestern Ontario are finding a will to work together. At the second meeting of the Chiefs and Mayors of the Fort Frances Chiefs’ Secretariat and the Rainy River District Municipal Association held Wednesday in the Devlin Community Centre there was resolution to keep a united front and work on district challenges together. Thirty-five Chiefs, Mayors, Reeves, Councillors, and Administrators met as a follow-up to a meeting at Kay-Na-Chi-Nung Historical Centre (Manitou Mounds) last October.
That meeting was hosted by the Fort Frances Chiefs’ Secretariat. Wednesday’s meeting was hosted by the Municipal Association. President of the Association, Mayor Deb Ewald of Rainy River set the tone for the meeting by stating, “The only way to move ahead is to keep working on the same page!”
The attendees came to the same conclusion by formulating a plan that would see one representative from each community of both organizations become the ‘Working Group to address priorities.
Chief Jim Leonard of Rainy River First Nation noted, “That our history shows we haven’t worked too well in the past so we must formalize to ensure accountability.”
One of the top priorities is the design of a formal accord. The other top concerns were , Apprenticeship Training to meet the expected needs of mining, and a united front on the Forest Tenure Process.
A wide range of concerns were discussed including the Mill Closure, replacing the District Judge, Bullying and Violence, Drug Strategies, Outshopping, Tourism, and Agriculture among many others.
Chief Gary Allen of Nigigoonsiminikaaning proposed clustering the issues in four areas, Political Will, Education and Economics, Social Justice and Health..
“Resource revenue-sharing means we require much more say, especially as this will affect future generations”, emphasized Mayor Dennis Brown of Atikokan. Councillor Anthony Leek of Emo confirmed the two groups wanted , “To build a viable framework”.
Reeve Peter Van Heyst of Chapple commented that he, “Sees a will to work together”. This was echoed by Councillor James Gibson who affirmed that , “We have mutual respect”. Both groups will be sending out directives to their member councils to appoint a representative and an alternate so that the Working Group can convene in the next 6 weeks to get right to work.
Host Reeve Ross Donaldson of La Vallee stressed that “It is mportant to a get perspective from the entire district which clearly includes First Nations.
Three First Nations who are currently not members of the Chiefs’ Secretariat, Big Island, Big Grassy and Onigaming will also be invited to ensure the District is fully represented.
The Municipal Association has all 10 municipalities and 3 Social Services Boards as members and the Chiefs’ Secretariat represents 7 First Nations, all of comprise a population of approximately 25,000 people.
Chief Allen acknowledged that the First Nations’ would “restructure their resolve and demonstrate their commitment by joining both the Chamber of Commerce and the Futures Development Corporation”.One of the early proponents of the groups forging a working group was Councillor Gord Armstrong who concluded the meeting by forecasting, “the building of paths to a stronger future!”
The event was moderated by Ken Boshcoff of Crupi Consulting Group who stated, “It was an honour to be asked to chair these meetings, and see the progressive thinking unite the district.”