A new partnership between the Town of Fort Frances and Agency One First Nations bodes well for the future of our district.
Surrounded by dignitaries and local residents, Couchiching FN Chief Brian Perrault, Mitaanjigamiing FN Chief Janice Henderson, Naicatchewenin FN Chief Wayne Smith, Nigigoonsiminikaaning FN Chief Will Windigo, and Fort Frances Mayor June Caul met at Point Park last Wednesday to sign a Declaration of Intent and Friendship—an expression of goodwill, setting out the First Nations' and town's intents to settle differences outside of court and work together as friends for the good of Point Park as well as the district as a whole.
By signing the declaration, the chiefs and mayor have shown their sincere commitment to work together towards goals and objectives, starting with resolving the Point Park dispute.
They've shown a desire to transition to a longer-term relationship of mutual support and strategic alignment on various matters and committing to sharing the Point Park lands as a park for everyone—now and forever.
The declaration is also an acknowledgement by the town that prior to the arrival of European settlers to what is now known as the Rainy River District, the Anishinaabe were the self-governing, self-determining inhabitants of this land, with their own laws, language, traditions, sacred sites, artifacts, and customs, and an acknowledgement as to how settler governments haven't always lived up to their treaty commitments as stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Showing this respect to the four bands is important if the town sincerely wants to move forward as partners.
Putting an end to litigation which has been ongoing for over 20 years and has costed the parties involved millions of dollars will be a relief for everyone involved. Going forward, the money saved will be used not only to protect and develop the Point Park lands but benefit the residents of the respective communities.
But more than about dollars and cents, the ongoing litigation has prevented peace and harmony among neighbours. The opportunity to now build a better relationship is priceless.
It truly is the first step on a path to reconciliation. Let's hope that not only will it mean a bright future for the Point Park lands, but more opportunities for members of each community to come together to celebrate our renewed heritage as treaty peoples, neighbours, and partners.
The era of thinking in terms of “us" and "them" must end. It's time to think about what "we” can do together.