FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION - People in Fort William First Nation are going to play a significant role in creating youth and community-driven solutions to issues facing First Nations communities across the region.
On Monday, Fort William First Nation hosted the inaugural meeting of an Indigenous Youth and Community Wellness Secretariat, the first of its kind in Ontario.
David Zimmer, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, attended the meeting along with Fort William First Nation chief, Peter Collins, youth, and elders in the community.
“This was the first time the Ontario government has located a secretariat on site,” Zimmer said. “There are very serious issues involving the Indigenous communities, particularly so here in Northwestern Ontario. It was very important we have an onsite presence.”
Zimmer added that dealing with these issues from downtown Toronto at Queen’s Park remotely does not have the same impact as having someone in the community and listening to what the people affected by these issues have to say.
Locating a secretariat in the community was first announced last July in response to issues facing First Nation communities, such as the suicide crisis impacting Indigenous youth.
According to Rachel Kampus, assistant deputy minister to the secretariat, the role of the secretariat is to work with Indigenous partners and communities to have a more coordinated response to solutions.
“We are asked to help improve response for Indigenous communities and youth who are facing crisis and who are working towards wellness,” she said. “That is what we were asked to do through the secretariat in partnership with our communities and today was the start to that journey.”
The secretariat will be located on Fort William First Nation and work directly with the community, including youth, elders, and members appointed by partnering organizations.
Stephanie Feletto, director at Indigenous youth and community wellness secretariat, said the first meeting was an important step toward reconciliation and finding solutions that work for everyone impacted by issues facing First Nation communities.
“We listened to some of the challenges they are facing and how we can work together to co-develop an action plan in moving forward so we can assist the communities and hear their community-driven, youth-focused, youth-centered, community-centered types of solutions that they want to be able to assist them into a state of wellness,” she said.