On Saturday, April 16th, 2016, a significant document, months in the making, was officially signed and witnessed. The ‘Reconciliation and Prosperity Accord’ was signed between The Ojibways of The Garden River Ketegaunseebee First Nation and Port of Algoma, Sault Ste. Marie. Signatories to the Accord were Chief Paul Syrette, Garden River First Nation and Anshumali Dwivedi, CEO,Port of Algoma, and witnessed by Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day and Terry Sheehan, MP Sault Ste. Marie.
Grand Entry, Garden River First Nation Community Centre, led by youth dancers, Eagle Staff Carrier, GRFN Councillor Darryl Williams and Hand Drum Singers Grammazboyz Dion & Logan, opened the historic day’s event. A day described by Chief Paul Syrette as “a tribute to our ancestors; a day that is about hope and change; hope that we can reach out and build partnerships with our good neighbours and friends.”
Reflecting on history, Chief Syrette shared, “Next year, Canada will be celebrating 150 years of Confederation. For our people, it has been 150 years of challenging times, filled with federal government policy failures; Residential Schools; the 60’s scoop of our children, and attempts to assimilate and remove us from our lands. What the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has labelled, cultural genocide. ”
The 94 TRC calls to action have been endorsed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. www.trc.ca
“The good news, is we are still here” said Chief Syrette. “And we plan to be here for a long time. In 1850, Chief Shingwauk contemplated a way of life for our people; a life where lands and resources were shared; given to us by The Creator; lands and resources that we were to all benefit from, and for future generations to prosper from, but for 166 years, we have not benefited fully from our side of the Robinson-Huron Treaty.”
“As the original peoples, on this part of our sacred mother, the earth, we have been entrusted to care for, and protect our lands, water and air. Our voice and our world view, the Anishinabek world view is essential if we are going to make Canada, Ontario, and the hub of Ontario, ‘Bawating’, a place of prosperity and opportunity that respects the environment.”
“We will not stand by if the riches of our lands are taken from us; in this respect it is better to negotiate, rather than litigate. The economy of the Sault and region is changing rapidly. We need to work in collaboration to find innovative and new opportunities to sustain us into the future.”
“The ‘Reconciliation and Prosperity Accord’ is proposed to set out our mutual relationship and is the leading document on a pre-engagement on the obligation, to undertake a duty to consult and accommodate. The Accord sets a tone on how we will work with each other. This Accord further establishes our relationship on the notion of a nation to nation basis. This Accord will ensure the active participation of our people.” shared Chief Syrette.
“The amount of pressure by development is having consequences to the Great Lakes. We will not undertake development at the expense of our environment and sensitive ecology. It is our responsibility to work to protect and defend our first family, creation from harmful environmental effects.” said Chief Syrette.
Chief Syrette wants to ensure that the environment and the commitment to protecting the lands, water and air are considered in any development going forward with the Port of Algoma. “The water is sacred to us. The time is now to get to the table. To ensure that any dredging for example, is done in consultation with us. We are open for business. This Accord signifies the importance of what we can do when we work together; when mutual respect is honoured.”
MP Terry Sheehan, said, “Our Prime Minister has been very clear, that we will consult with First Nations, on a Nation to Nation basis, as we grow our communities together. These are priorities. There must be robust consultations with First Nations going forward. Today is a historic day. It demonstrates, as an example to the rest of Canada, how engaging in business with First Nation can be successful.”
Darrell Boissoneau, Garden River First Nation and Dan Hollingsworth, Executive Director, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp. shared Master of Ceremonies duties. In attendance were Chief Reginald Nigonabe, chair NSTC, Don Mitchell, chair EDC, Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare, Anishinabek Nation, Dr. Eddie Benton Banaise, Grand Chief. A prayer was offered by Elder Doreen Lesage.
Of the Accord, Anshumali Dwivedi said, “This sets the tone; it lays out the stepping stones to detailed agreements and consultations going forward. It’s early days right now to talk about specifics with respect to development and possible jobs and positions at the Port and any industries that may come out of this, as well as employment training possibilities. Now that The Accord is signed, it sets the stage for further discussions”
Both Chief Syrette and Dwivedi credit Darrell Boissoneau as having the foresight to undertake an Accord that would be beneficial to both parties, enabling them to tap into potential development and trade.
Aggregate and Salt, as well as Forestry industries are a priority for The Port of Algoma. Phase 1 was completed on March 31st, 2016.
“We are looking at signing a Unity Accord, with area (First Nation) Chiefs.” said Dwivedi. “To keep their interests in the forefront, and a path forward in consultations, done in a responsible manner.” Anshumali Dwivedi further shared that Batchewana FN is leading discussions for ‘The Unity Accord’, expected to be ready in the coming weeks. The Unity Accord will encompass several First Nations in the algoma region.
Dwivedi said “Phase 2 (Port of Algoma) is focused on the funding application and a package of implementation of the project. Phase 3 will be the construction phase, spread over four years.”
Upon completion of the signing of the Reconciliation and Prosperity Accord, a gift of tobacco from Anshumali Dwivedi to Chief Paul Syrette, was accepted. And that, was significant.
An Honour Song followed by a community feast closed the day.
‘The Port of Algoma will directly support the regional and national economy by: Optimizing the capacity, efficiency and safety of the existing transportation system; Linking major markets with rural and remote communities, economic opportunities, resource development areas, and service hubs; Meeting the needs of the existing and emerging priority sectors to execute regional economic plans; Enhancing connectivity among transportation modes including rail, road and marine; Reducing emissions and other environmental impacts associated with transportation. Furthermore, it significantly supports regional development and diversification along with enhancing Sault Ste. Marie’s role as an economic and service hub.
Port of Algoma shall be a seaway depth, full service marine terminal, integrated with a fully serviced industrial park with direct access to the Trans-Canada Highway and U.S. Interstate highway systems, continental rail (CN & CP) networks and marine transportation access.
This international gateway development, situated in the centre of the North American continent, is a globally competitive location for companies throughout Canada. The port has 9 docks with total length of 1376 meters. The company, which is a subsidiary of Essar Ports Global Holdings and independent from Essar Steel Algoma, was established in 2014 to look at ways of capitalizing on Sault Ste. Marie’s strategic location at the heart of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System.’ www.destinyssm.com
Garden River First Nation can be: FOUND HERE
The Port of Algoma can be found here: Port of Algoma Click Here
For information on the Robinson-Huron Treaty (1850) visit: www.anishinabek.ca)