Sioux Lookout has new sister city in Ukraine

SIOUX LOOKOUT — Sioux Lookout has its first official sister city.

Sioux Lookout officially signed a sister city agreement with Vashkivtsi, a town in Ukraine, with representatives from both communities having met in an introductory meeting on Zoom earlier this week.

Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance said the meeting was very friendly and convivial, noting it was conducted with the help of excellent translators.

“A great introduction learning a little bit about our sister city and them learning a little bit about us,” he said. We compared some life stories about the weather and seasons, and cultural activities and we also talked a little bit about the heavy stuff that’s going on Ukraine now and how it’s impacting their city.”

Brian MacKinnon, the municipality's manager for corporate services, said they got the idea from Kenora MP Eric Melillo’s office. Another MP, Larry Brock, told the House of Commons about a sister city agreement in his riding signed in April between Brantford, Ont., with Kamianets-Podilskyi as a way to show support for Ukraine.

Melillo’s office said “with Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, it is absolutely critical that Canada shows its support for Ukraine, and sister city agreements provide the opportunity for municipalities to show their support as well.”

MacKinnon said the MP’s office helped narrow down the choices to five communities, all located in western Ukraine. From the five, municipal staff recommended the town of Vashkivtsi because it has almost the same population as Sioux Lookout, it is holds the Malanka Festival, a famous event with a legacy like Sioux Lookout’s Blueberry Festival, and it houses Bukovinian State Medical University, a medical institute renown in Ukraine, which mirrors Sioux Lookout’s role as a medical hub for the area.

At the Aug. 24 meeting, Sioux Lookout council approved a recommendation by administration to approach a city in the Ukraine for a sister city agreement. Sioux Lookout and Vashkivtsi then signed the agreement, with the date of council approval acting as the start of the agreement.

Lawrance said Vashkivtsi is appreciative of the sister city agreement which shows support.

“The agreement talks about tourism, culture, youth cooperation, sports, science and education, and various exchanges,” Lawrance said. “There’s the usual sister city type of activities and then there’s the special situation in Ukraine, [where] Vashkivtsi finds itself in right now that we can offer some form of support that is appropriate for the means of the people of Sioux Lookout.”

While Vashkivtsi is Sioux Lookout's only sister city, the municipality is a signatory to a friendship accord with the communities of Slate Falls First Nation, Cat Lake First Nation, Lac Seul First Nation and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug that was first signed in 2012.

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source