Report from Parliament Hill:
A busy week in Northwestern Ontario
Bob Nault, MP, Kenora Riding
During the summer, I try and visit all 13 municipalities and 42 First Nations in our riding. It’s an excellent opportunity to spend time with fellow Northerners and discuss the issues that matter most to them.
Beginning the week in North Caribou Lake First Nation, I was able to take a look at the community’s new bridge funded through an investment by the federal government. With the project completed, North Caribou Lake residents now have all-season road access straight through to Pickle Lake. No longer will community residents experience the negative impacts of isolation. It will also help to reduce the cost of food and fuel and provide more opportunities for economic development. These are just some of the reasons it’s so important we connect the North.
I also visited Sandy Lake First Nation, which is a community of more than 3,000 that has now reached both its hydro and water capacities. These capacity issues have made it difficult for the community to continue building much needed infrastructure, such as housing. Sandy Lake is one of the 16 First Nations that will be connected to Ontario’s electrical grid as a part of the federal government’s $1.6 billion investment in the Watay Power project. The next step is to have the necessary permit approvals in order to begin the construction phase.
Building roads, bridges, housing and other infrastructure also bring employment opportunities to our riding. In order for that to happen, Indigenous people need to have the necessary skills and training to find jobs which these projects will provide. In Sioux Lookout, I was pleased to announce a $5.7 million project that will have the Sioux Lookout Area Aboriginal Employment & Training Board (SLAAMB) offer training for Indigenous peoples looking to join the workforce.
In total, 334 participants will be trained in: skilled trades, hospitality, water treatment, information technology, security, health care, and heavy equipment operation. Of those participants, 170 will be youth recruited from 25 First Nations in the region, who will gain work experience under the At Risk Youth Program Initiative. I cannot stress it enough, that as we build up our infrastructure and provide access to the necessary skill training and education, the entire region prospers. This is the key component to the success and prosperity of our region.
In Nibinamik First Nation, I met with the community’s newly formed Youth Council. In addition to our discussions, the young men and women allowed us to film a short video of their future hopes for the community. Their wishes included a youth council office and better access to sports and recreation. Who better to discuss the future of a community than the youth? They have grown up there, experienced it, and will continue to shape their own future.
Increasingly, I see more and more community gardens popping up in remote communities. Sachigo Lake has expanded their community garden since last year, and youth were putting the finishing touches on planting last week. Community gardens provide a cost effective, healthier food alternative for remote First Nations and I commend Sachigo for their outstanding efforts and dedication to such a worthwhile and important project. Not only do these gardens produce food, they also help to foster community spirit.
I am encouraged by the progress being made in communities throughout our riding, although there is still much work to be done. I look forward to continuing visiting with residents and having a chance to hear what they have to say about what’s important to them.