Alderville First Nation, Northumberland County build for the future with facilitated meeting
A special Northumberland County and Alderville First Nation meeting was held Wednesday in Cobourg to build relationships towards future service agreements like waste. Alderville representatives included (from left) CAO Joanne Smoke, Chief James Marsden, Band Councillor Jodi Holmes, staff members Stephanie Shaw and Connie Cooper, and Band Councillors Julie Bothwell and Pam Crowe. VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today
Although there have been a series of meetings between Northumberland County and Alderville First Nation looking at mutually-beneficial issues, the first under the facilitation program of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was held Wednesday.
The program will continue until March of 2018, said FCM facilitator Peigi Wilson during an interview.
The session took place at the county headquarters in Cobourg with staff and politicians from the County and Alnwick/Haldimand Township (the township in which the separate entity of Alderville First Nation is located) plus Alderville band council and staff.
The special meeting began with a relationship building exercise which initially determined how much each of the parties knew about everything from the other’s history and culture to governance, and in particular waste management services, since that is the area in which Alderville wishes to come to an agreement with the county in the future.
“We are trying very hard to get a handle on waste management,” Alderville First Nation Chief James Marsden said. That includes solid waste and improving recycling, the group heard.
A ceremonial smudging with sweetgrass was led by Alderville First Nation Band Councillor Julie Bothwell, who explained its significance in opening participants’ eyes, ears and hearts in order to see, hear and feel good things going forward in the meeting.
Wilson explained that the facilitation program is an opportunity to support municipalities in their relationship building with Indigenous people across Canada, and in an interview County CAO Jennifer Moore said when county staff became aware of the program, they applied to be part of it. There are six across Canada underway this year with another five in Manitoba.
Building relationships between First Nations and municipalities is important before creating joint agreements and infrastructure, Wilson said.
“We want to make sure your relationship is around for the 20 to 30 years (of the life of any infrastructure),” she explained.
This starts with recognizing each others independent responsibilities and mandates, and through mutual respect, Wilson continued.
There will be plenty of opportunities to work together, she added.
“We share the same air, land and water, and the same hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren.”
Supporting each other means everyone benefits, Wilson said, and part of that is learning how to make joint decisions.
“This is about building a better country, collectively...reconciliation between communities.”
Wilson recognized work has begun along that path with the joint meetings Alderville First Nation and Northumberland County which have been looking at specific mutually beneficial issues, including waste management.
“From what I’ve heard you are already doing a good job,” Wilson said.
During the initial group work and summaries, the group heard from various members including Northumberland County Warden Mark Walas and Chief Marsden.
Walas talked about the existing relationship as good and “no news was good news” in terms of concerns.
Marsden said his members participate in many county events and organizations throughout the county but that there are missed opportunities to participate together such as when a navy vessel recently came to Cobourg and Alderville representatives were not invited.
Some people were surprised when Marsden said federal funding for Alderville has been capped at 2% yearly over 1990 levels and they are waiting for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to live up to his promise of improving that. The band does not raise money through property taxes as the county and municipal governments do, he said.
In reviewing what they knew of each other’s history, Alnwick/Haldimand Mayor John Logel pointed out that both Alderville and Cobourg are celebrating their 180th anniversary this year.
More meetings will be held as the program moves forward.