On behalf of my Council, I am pleased to report to the membership the progress we are making in a number of areas that relate to the betterment of our community. My intention is to provide regular updates on our new website so that all members, both on-reserve and off-reserve, will be better informed on the initiatives that our Council and program personnel are working on. My hope is that our website will encourage and allow for increased participation by all our members, including those who have chosen to live away from our community.
AUDIT OF OUR FINANCES
The government of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen (ONS) and the financial and program managers deserve all the credit for achieving a clear audit for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017. The auditors for our First Nation are Meyers Norris Penny (MNP). It is important to note that our First Nation has consistently achieved clear audits for several years, which is a strong indication that we have managed our finances in a responsible way.
TRANSMISSION LINE TO PICKLE LAKE
For over 4 years, we have been negotiating to acquire a promising business opportunity respecting the construction of a transmission line to Pickle Lake. A formal partnership agreement, which we have named Sagatay, is in place between our First Nation, Mishkeegogamang First Nation, and Algonquin Power.
The negotiations between Wataynikaneyap have focused around two possible routings for the transmission line. One proposed route would proceed from Dinorwic to Pickle Lake; the other would proceed from Ignace to Pickle Lake. It has been necessary to keep these negotiations confidential in order that we can negotiate the best possible arrangement for our people.
Our goal is to secure revenue/financial benefits, employment and business opportunities for our membership, as well as ensuring that our traditional ancestral lands are environmentally protected and that our treaty and Aboriginal rights are respected.
A “Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)” was signed between our First Nation, Mishkeegogamang, and Wataynikaneyap. This NDA has enabled these negotiations to proceed. I am pleased to report that we are very close to a draft agreement, and once this draft is in place, we look forward to bringing the proposal in its entirety to the membership for your consideration.
CONSTRUCTION OF NEW COMMUNITY CENTRE
We should all be proud of the Community Centre Complex, which has seen tremendous progress in its construction. As you can see, the outer-shell of the Complex has already been completed and we are hopeful that the project will be completed by the end of this Fall, 2018.
The funds we have been raising for several years from our RAMA entitlement has enabled us to bring the Complex to what it looks like today. We have also been submitting proposals for further funding to government agencies, including the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). We are pleased to report that they have recently announced that they will contribute $1 million towards this priority project. Also, we have applied to the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, who have provided $100,000; and we have a pending application to FedNor for $700,000. We are hopeful that we will soon receive a commitment for those funds. The entire Complex is to cost approximately $3.7 million. Once construction is completed, we will also need to find funds to furnish the interior of the Complex.
Once completed, the Community Centre will become a meeting place for our Elders and membership, both young and old. There will be a gymnasium for our youth, which our school will make great use of. As well, there will be a commercial kitchen, which can be used daily as a coffee shop, and also for providing meals for conferences, training programs, and other workshops. This great space will allow us to attract and host conferences and other training programs that will benefit our community. Office space in the centre will be set aside for Tikinagan Child and Family Services; our Police Service; our Council chamber; and offices for other Band programs.
I am wondering if the members would like to have a contest to name the Community Centre? Please let me know.
Congratulations to all our students for their hard work and successfully completing the school year. We also appreciate the dedication to our students by our principal and teachers. We should all take pride in the fact that our school focuses on land-based activities, which includes how we have always lived off the land.
RING OF FIRE
I am sure many of you have been hearing about the major mining exploration that is currently proposed northeast of Pickle Lake. The mining company Noront have secured the mining rights to an enormous chromite deposit, which has become known as the “Ring of Fire.” However, prior to constructing such a mine, there will need to be an access road built starting from Pickle Lake and proceeding northeast for approximately 300 kilometers. As well, there will need to be a powerline that would connect Pickle Lake to the mine site. Once in operation, it is estimated that on a daily basis, there will be as many as 250 truckloads of material being hauled down Highway 599 to a transfer station, which is likely to be at either Savant Lake or Sioux Lookout. We should begin contemplating possible business and other spin-off opportunities that will be generated from this massive project.
We will also need to negotiate an Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) to ensure that our First Nation receives fair entitlement by permitting access through our traditional and ancestral lands.
IGNACE AS A POSSIBLE SITE FOR NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL
Our First Nation has been approached by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to “learn more” about nuclear energy and the possibility of locating a nuclear waste disposal site in the Ignace area.
Of course, we will not consider supporting such a project unless we are provided with evidence and assurances that there is absolutely no possibility of contamination of our traditional ancestral lands.
The NWMO is proposing a 4 year “Learn More Agreement” that will entitle our First Nation to participate in discussions and have access to all of the experts and reports that are examining the Ignace location as a possible site. There were originally over 20 sites identified throughout Canada as possible permanent locations, and it has now been narrowed down to 5, which includes Ignace. There will only be one site selected to deposit all nuclear waste from the various nuclear energy plants, and the final selection will be in 2022 (4 years from now). The actual construction and operation of the waste disposal facility will not happen for a further 20 years (in 2042).
I would like to see as many members as are interested to become involved in learning more about the pros and cons of this proposed project. I have been assured by the NWMO that no nuclear waste disposal site will be approved for Ignace unless there is agreement from our First Nation and other communities in the area that would be impacted. Once the “Learn More Agreement” is confirmed, I will post on our website more information on how you may choose to become involved.
NATIONAL INQUIRY INTO THE MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS (MMIWG)
Last month, we were granted standing to participate in the Inquiry into the MMIWG and it is our intention to participate throughout the process. If there are any band members interested in actively participating in the inquiry, please let us know. It is likely that this process will continue for another year and there will be various opportunities to express points of view on how to best address this ongoing tragedy.
GOVERNANCE AT OJIBWAY NATION OF SAUGEEN (ONS)
The founding members of our First Nation had the vision to establish our Custom and Usage Convention. The four original families decided in the mid-80s that they did not want to be confined to the provisions of the Indian Act, and so established our Convention, which has served us well, but has now reached the time to review.
It is now time to begin a review process that will guide us into the future and adapt to the realities of the 21st Century. I want to arrange for sessions over the course of the next several months to invite your feedback and to have as many people as possible to become engaged in the review process as are interested.
COMMUNITY GATHERING AND FEAST
We should start planning for an Annual Gathering of all our members, both on and off-reserve. This Gathering will offer an opportunity for our families to share our experiences and assert our Treaty and Aboriginal Rights. Our Council encourages all members to identify their priority issues so that this Gathering will be productive and a success for everyone.
Meegwetch. I look forward to getting our website up and running so that Council will be able to better communicate with all of our members, wherever you may reside.
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