Missanabie Cree First Nation ISN Maskwa: Response to Media Release by Municipality of Kapuskasing re Evacuees

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Missanabie Cree
Team in Kapuskasing - June 2023

Missanabie Cree First Nation is a designated host for evacuees by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) in the same manner as several municipalities in the Province of Ontario. We provide these services through our company called Missanabie Cree First Nation ISN Maskwa (ISN Maskwa). This is the “newly formed company” referred to by the Town of Kapuskasing. We are also in the process of building an evacuation shelter on our traditional lands that can host 800 residents. It will be operational in the spring of 2024.

Missanabie Cree First Nation’s ISN Maskwa is an Indigenous-led organization that is owned by Missanabie Cree First Nation (MCFN). It is located in the Band Office along with Missanabie Cree Business Development Corporation in Sault Ste. Marie. The ISN portion of our name references a partnership that we have with Investigative Solutions Network Inc. that has assisted us in building our service capacity. ISN is a partnership, but Missanabie Cree First Nation owns the majority of ISN Maskwa. We are very proud to employ well over 100 Indigenous people from many First Nations. ISN Maskwa is staffed with about 90% Indigenous employees.

The primary mission of Missanabie Cree First Nation’s ISN Maskwa is to assist Indigenous communities in building trained teams of leaders and support personnel to support an Indigenous-led response during evacuations or community emergencies.

On Saturday June 24, 2023 Kapuskasing Mayor Dave Plourde referred to our organization incorrectly. We are ISN Maskwa, not ISN. Mayor Plourde was quoted by Timmins Today as saying “We’re still open to ISN to host, and hopefully everything goes well.” In addition Mayor Plourde stated “It is unfortunate really, but it seems ISC doesn’t want us at the table”. “It’s bittersweet, it’s one of those things that’s hard to take.” “It’s really important that everyone still respects that these residents are dealing with a serious situation” “The town is still here to help as we always are, we are willing to continue to do that.”

On Thursday June 22, 2023 leadership from the Town of Kapuskasing, Indigenous Services Canada and Missanabie Cree First Nation ISN Maskwa met virtually. It was at this meeting that the Town of Kapuskasing advised everyone that they were “pulling out” of hosting evacuations. This included the use of the airport. At that time there were planes inbound to Kapuskasing with evacuees. This decision resulted in community members being left on the plane at the Kapuskasing airport without services and required ISN Maskwa staff to find an alternate airport very quickly. Airport services were found in Cochrane which then required community members to be bused from Cochrane to Kapuskasing. It also significantly disrupted flight planning for this operation and had the potential to jeopardize the wellbeing of the inbound passengers. Miigwetch to the Town of Cochrane for assisting our people!

MCFN has worked tirelessly in collaboration with numerous First Nation communities and in partnership with Mushkegowuk Council to create a truly Indigenous response in times of crisis for our people. This is First Nations helping First Nations in their time of need. We employ over 100 staff and are very proud that we employ members from First Nation communities from across Ontario. Most recently we deployed the team in the attached photo to Val Rita and Kapuskasing. Our staff travelled from across Ontario to support our communities in their time of need. I say Miigwetch to all the communities represented in our latest deployment. They came from:

 Missanabie Cree First Nation

 Ginoogaming First Nation

 Batchewana First Nation

 Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation

 Mississauga First Nation

 Kettle and Stony Point First Nation

 Walpole Island First Nation

 Fort Williams First Nation

 Gull Bay First Nation

 Wikwemikong First Nation

 Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation

 Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation

 Michipicoten First Nation

 Garden River First Nation

 Whitefish River First Nation

 Metis Nation of Ontario

Deputy Chief Jutta Horne and Councillor Les Nolan from MCFN were part of the team. Miigwetch to both of you for your leadership in representing our Nation.

With the generous support and visioning from Indigenous Services Canada, we have trained over 200 Indigenous leaders from over 40 communities for Incident Command and as Community Support Personnel. They are trained to highest levels for Incident Management. The CSPs are trained as security guards and receive additional training in Mental Health First Aid, Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and Search and Rescue. Our teams include experienced retired law enforcement members who have spent their careers working in this field. It is true that ISN Maskwa is only three years old, however MCFN has been on these lands since time immemorial and our teams have decades of experience in the work they do.

I would like to thank Indigenous Services Canada under the leadership of Regional Director General Michael O’Byrne for their steadfast support in the work we are doing. Miigwetch to the ISC team! We look forward to working with you to move forward the Indigenous led response that has been created.

With the support of Indigenous Services Canada, MCFN has created the Indigenous Emergency Operations Center. It is located in our Band Office in Sault Ste. Marie. The IEOC coordinates all our activities and provides ongoing support through a 24/7 Duty Officer. I am pleased to announce that we are opening a sub office of the IEOC in Kapuskasing as our hub of operations for this area.

MCFN has supported several communities across Ontario and Manitoba in times of need. We supported them in providing services to remote nursing stations, supports during fire/flood evacuations and during social emergencies. These communities include

 Kashechewan First Nation

 Attawapiskat First Nation

 Deer Lake First Nation

 Wabaseemoong First Nation

 M’Chigeeng First Nation

Miigwetch to all these communities for allowing us to assist you and for welcoming us into your communities.

We also have long term deployments currently in Pic Mobert First Nation and Ginoogaming First Nation. Miigwetch to both communities for your trust in allowing us to support you in your time of need.

MCFN has also built strong relationships with several municipalities. We look for these meaningful and strong partnerships where we can. I would like to say Miigwetch to all the municipalities that have worked with us in the past. These include,

 Toronto

 Windsor

 Sault Ste. Marie

 Thunder Bay

 Cochrane

 Hearst

 Cornwall

 Dryden

 Kenora

 Winnipeg

I say a very special Miigwetch to our friends and partners from the Town of Val Rita and Smooth Rock Falls! Your support is very much appreciated. Chi Miigwetch to Mayor Johanne Baril and your team in Val Rita. You have truly demonstrated your dedication to reconciliation and have been wonderful hosts for evacuees and MCFN.

When our teams go to communities, we use local service providers. This includes hotels, food services, busing and so on. There are also several community agencies that we work with. Miigwetch to all our partners. I would like to say a very special Miigwetch to the Kapuskasing Indian Friendship Center! We look forward to working with you again in the future. The same capacity to receive evacuees is available today as it was in past years. The only difference is that MCFN has a partnership agreement with three of the hotels and has rented several more rooms from other providers. These businesses are free to engage with anyone they choose. We value and support our partners whenever we can.

The collaborations and partnerships we look for is about reconciliation. We see the value in our very diverse Indigenous company in partnering with non-Indigenous agencies and local governments. We actively seek out these collaborations. It is through this good work that true reconciliation will occur. As Chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation, I am committed to supporting First Nations helping First Nations through this Indigenous Led response we have created.

MCFN has also worked tirelessly to support several First Nation communities in their investigations into the residential schools. This includes five separate schools and over 40 First Nation communities. This is very impactful work for our staff as they help to bring the children home to their communities. Miigwetch to all the communities entrusting us with this.

It is unfortunate that Missanabie Cree First Nation ISN Maskwa has had to provide this release, however, we feel it is imperative that we correct this information and clarify that we are Missanabie Cree First Nation ISN Maskwa as we move forward with assisting First Nations in times of crisis.

Respectfully,

Chief Jason Gauthier

Missanabie Cree First Nation

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