By Dryden Observer Staff
Spread across a landmass the size of Sweden, the communities of the Kenora District share a great many challenges. How to best communicate those issues to audiences at the local, regional and provincial levels was a notable theme at last week’s Kenora District Municipal Association (KDMA) meeting, held in Machin, Feb. 2-3.
A panel of media and communications professionals including CBC Radio’s Jeff Walters, print media and the public relations field offered insights into the rapidly evolving state of the media, and strategies for interacting and building relationships with journalists.
Friday’s packed agenda featured presentations from both the provincial and federal arms of the Ministry of Infrastructure which focused on funding programs.
NOMA president Dave Canfield updated the group on the issues at the forefront for the Northern Ontario Municipal Association: from arguing for a bottom-up approach to decision making in forestry matters; lobbying the Ministry of Finance for more tools in the municipal taxation toolkit to address a wave of new assessment challenges in the commercial sector; resolving deficiencies with inter-city bus travel in the region; provincial land tax reform; further lobbying on behalf on northern communities for natural gas expansion; as well as the forthcoming results of Common Voice Northwest’s Energy East consultations.
Ann Aikens and Joe Heil of Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) provided an update on the past year’s activities in the community of Ignace — one of nine locations being examined as a possible site for a deep geological repository for the long-term storage of Canada’s high-level nuclear waste. Heil spoke on the NWMO’s effort to engage First Nations communities and incorporate traditional knowledge into the site selection process.
Working closer with First Nations was a dominant theme throughout the conference and the delegates gained insights from a panel of guests including Lac Seul Chief Clifford Bull, Meno-Ya-Win Health Centre Co-Chair Barb Hancock and Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance who spoke on the front-line challenges of overcoming barriers to accessing care for First Nations people and bridging the cultural gaps that emerge during the delivery of care.
While KDMA includes nine member communities, its boundaries encompass 55 First Nations reserves and settlements. Thirty-nine per cent of the Kenora District’s population self-identifies as Indigenous.
Sioux Lookout delegates also spoke on the Truth and Reconciliation process and their community’s plans to act of the T&R report’s calls to action for municipalities in 2017.
KDMA received a sobering report from Kenora District Services Board CAO Henry Wall on the skyrocketing demand for social housing in the district as well as promising new funding for the region’s three emergency shelters in Kenora, Red Lake and Sioux Lookout.
Other guest speakers included Kenora MP Bob Nault, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young-Hoon and Kenora District Home for the Aged CAO Kevin Queen.