A new partnership has formed between the Town of Fort Frances and Agency One First Nations.
Mayor June Caul and Couchiching FN Chief Brian Perrault, Mitaanjigamiing FN Chief Janice Henderson, Naicatchewenin FN Chief Wayne Smith, and Nigigoonsiminikaaning FN Chief Will Windigo met at Point Park yesterday at noon to sign a Declaration of Intent and Friendship.
The declaration is an expression of goodwill, setting out the First Nations' and town's intent 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.
The hope is to make Point Park as lively and vibrant as it was prior to the land agreement lease expiring in 2009, which escalated litigation between the town and Agency One First Nations.
Around 100 people came out to support the signing of the declaration, which included town councillors, First Nations representatives, dignitaries, police officials, and members of the public.
The Declaration starts out by highlighting that since time immemorial, the Anishinaabe have maintained a spiritual connection to Mother Earth and a custodial responsibility to the lands gifted to them by the Creator.
It mentions 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.
The document gives a brief history of when the Anishinaabe entered into Treaty #3 with the Crown, when the Town of Fort Frances was incorporated, and highlights how settler governments haven't always lived up to their treaty commitments as stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Also outlined in the declaration is that the town and Agency One First Nations both recognize the desire to focus shared goals and objectives— such as reinvestments in Point Park and other economic opportunities and social development priorities.
It highlights reconciliation as an important journey the communities wish to undertake together to better reflect and acknowledge their shared history as well as the fact that litigation is expensive and doesn't create an atmosphere of peace and harmony among neighbours.
And that the citizens of Agency Once First Nations and the town have a similar aspirations for their community, people, children, and future.
By signing the declaration, the chiefs and mayor signified their sincere commitment to work together towards the following goals and objectives:
- The leadership of the Town and the Agency One First Nations shall meet regularly to discuss shared priorities and concerns, focusing initially on resolving the Point Park dispute, but transitioning to a longer-term relationship of mutual support and strategic alignment on various matters;
- The town and the Agency One First Nations are committed to sharing the Point Park lands as a park for all forever. They will work together to protect and develop these lands for public enjoyment, recreation, ceremonies, cultural celebrations, and activities.
They will explore organizational structures and investment arrangements that will implement these goals to the satisfaction of all parties and their respective communities;
- The town and the Agency One First Nations will work together toward a goal of resolving and/or mutually releasing one another from claims, legal proceedings, and outstanding orders related to the Point Park and surrounding lands;
- The town and the Agency One First Nations will strike a committee or working group to make recommendations on matters related to reconciliation and;
- The town and the Agency One First Nations will identify opportunities in the near future for members of each community to come together to celebrate our renewed heritage as treaty peoples, neighbours, and partners.
The document concluded that both parties understand that these goals are not legally binding obligations, but make them none the less on their honour and sincere commitment as neighbours with a desire to make positive change.