"We've been at the table": Hajdu on Ginoogaming's state of emergency

Following a speech made by Chief Sheri Taylor of Ginoogaming First Nation and comments from Greg Rickford, minister of northern affairs and First Nations economic reconciliation, at Premier Doug Ford’s recent announcement in Greenstone, Minister Patty Hajdu has issued a response.

Ginoogaming declared a state of emergency in May and, with the support of Matawa First Nations Management and the Chiefs Council, a letter written by Chief Taylor was hand-delivered to Premier Ford’s office.

Dougall Media recently caught up with Hajdu at her office in Thunder Bay, where she responded to Rickford’s comments and offered some examples of what she and her staff have been doing not only for Ginoogaming but the province as a whole.

“I think we’ve been at the table. Last week, I announced $1.2 billion to help the province of Ontario deliver health care for the Weeneebayko area in Northern Ontario. That’s a huge commitment to supporting the province of Ontario in terms of the areas in which it has jurisdiction – primarily health care, but I think there’s always an opportunity to improve the lives of people in Northern Ontario if we work together,” she said.

She highlighted the province and federal government’s partnership in widening Highway 11/17 – a project into which the federal government has funnelled over $80 million – as an example of what is possible when working together.

Hajdu said Ginoogaming First Nation’s need for infrastructural improvements is top of mind, while also detailing how the province and federal governments have divvied up some responsibilities in the community.

“Of course, we’re there building bridges. In fact, in Ginoogaming the federal government is supporting the redevelopment of one of the access points (to the community). The other one, closest to town, does rely on a partnership with the province. There’s a private sector player in that space as well.

“I have actually been to Ginoogaming and met with Chief Taylor a number of times since her election. I did mention that, after one of those visits, I agreed completely with the community that they needed some really critical road infrastructure,” she said.

Hajdu said the access point which the province and their private sector partner are responsible for is the best suited for health-care, service delivery, and movement in and out of the community.

While she did not specifically mention Ginoogaming’s state of emergency and how Indigenous Services Canada plans to address it, Hajdu said she and Rickford will be working together to address a variety of issues – including the recent lawsuit filed by Grassy Narrows First Nation in its fight against ongoing water contamination.

She said the goal for all involved, ultimately, is reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is something that is super-important for everyone – obviously - for First Nations and Indigenous people but (also) for all of us. This is about bringing communities together and strengthening our region. I look forward to working with the provincial government anytime we can do that work,” she said.

Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SNnewswatch.com