Thunder Bay renewing Aboriginal Liaison Strategy

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:22

Calls for an Aboriginal ombudsman were made during a Feb. 3 Aboriginal Liaison Strategy renewal meeting in Thunder Bay.
“I’ve heard comments from the Aboriginal community that sometimes services are not being provided in a manner to recognize some of the needs of our Aboriginal people in the community,” said Frances Wesley, strategy planner with the Thunder Bay Urban Aboriginal Strategy and a Constance Lake band member. “Having an ombudsman position would resolve a lot of our issues in terms of bringing the problems forward.”
Wesley has witnessed how Aboriginal citizens are treated differently in Thunder Bay.
“If you go into a restaurant with a non-Aboriginal person, you get pretty good service,” Wesley said. “But if you go there with Aboriginal people, there are some restaurants that will not serve you as well. I’ve had that experience.”
Wesley and a group of Aboriginal citizens met with city officials during an afternoon session on Feb. 3 to discuss the Aboriginal Liaison Strategy, which is up for renewal for another four years. A morning session was also held with other representatives.
“We’ve started some really good work with the city in developing the Aboriginal Liaison Unit and we can’t just stop it now,” Wesley said. “We’ve started some really good projects in the past and they have ventured into some service agreements with the Aboriginal community. I push that because in order for the Aboriginal Liaison Unit to be productive and to be effective, they need to build those community relationships. And you have to recognize the work the Aboriginal community has done in the past and don’t take that away from us — we’ll work with you.”
Noting the city also held a session this past October on the same issue, Wesley said the Aboriginal community does not expect the city to resolve everything.
“When we talk about partnerships, the Aboriginal community has to play that part as well ... to move this initiative forward,” Wesley said. “We highlighted some activities they could undertake year by year. And we would work with the city in measuring those results.”
The Aboriginal Liaison Strategy was implemented in 2010 after a commitment was made by city council in Thunder Bay’s 2007-2010 Strategic Plan.
An Initial Progress Report was delivered in April 2013 that highlighted a number of partnerships that were developed over the past four years, including holding regular meetings with Fort William First Nation, working with the Wasaya Group on the Victoriaville Centre youth centre, partnering with Anishinawbek Employment and Training to create placement opportunities and providing Biwaase’aa with $70,000 a year for three years to operate after school programming.

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