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Reconciliation-in-Action: Caldwell First Nation hosts first ever conference for municipalities in Southwestern Ontario


Municipal leaders and staff from across Windsor and Essex County are attending a historic conference on “Reconciliation in Action” hosted by the Caldwell First Nation at the Ojibway Nature Centre Friday.

The conference for local governments is intended to develop deeper understandings about the history, presence and experience of First Nations people who have lived on the lands of Windsor and Essex County.

“We cannot have true reconciliation without shared understandings of what has happened, what our story is and who we are today as leaders in creating healing and economic participation as a Nation,” Chief Mary Duckworth explained in a release. “These are our rights.”

“As leaders,” Duckworth said, “we have to be prepared to make decisions that will support our communities. We see, I see Windsor-Essex and the surrounding areas, rich with beautiful, beautiful people, lands, and how do we do good economic development and growth, while maintaining a good environmental footprint and leaving something for future generations.”

“This conference will develop an understanding of the harms and inequities that have existed for hundreds of years, and the legislation which exists to ensure First Nation people are engaged, consulted and are accommodated by municipal governments on development and the use of lands and waters in the region,” Duckworth continued. “We look forward to collaborating with all of the municipalities in Windsor-Essex on economic development opportunities for the betterment everyone who lives in the region.”

Duckworth added, “Everything starts with a good relationship. Even if you don't agree. We're never always going to agree. We know that. But we have to have understanding we have to have a relationship. We have to have a mechanism where we can have a dispute about it without going to court because that costs too much money and when you build those relationships and build in dispute resolution plans, it's a beautiful relationship.”

The event takes places one day after Cindy Woodhouse was elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa.

Participants took part in a morning ceremony and heard presentations from Duckworth on treaty relationship, and from First Nation policy analyst, Russ Diabo on strength of claim and First Nations rights and interests.

LaSalle Mayor Crystal Meloche said, “The biggest thing about today was partnerships and how we can work together to move our region forward.”

Meloche continued, “It's just great to know that we have these open lines of communication that maybe we didn't have in the past.”

Gord Peters, a well-known First Nations political advocate who has been involved in government negotiations on First Nation rights will facilitate a question-and-answer session.

After a group photo at 1 p.m., the afternoon sessions will feature presentations on planning by consultant advisor, Natalya Garrod, and on engaging archaeology by Zack Hamm the environmental consultation department manager for the Caldwell First Nation.

According to Town of Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy, most municipalities and Essex County are reviewing their official plans, suggesting the timing of this conference was good for future planning.

“Great leadership here by Caldwell First Nations and you can really see that it's one part of the puzzle where we're going to take away from this a little bit of a heart healing,” Bondy said. “We've all heard the stories of the unmarked graves and now we're like, ‘Okay, what can we do? What can we take responsibility for and walk away from to start to have action items?’”

“We've seen a lot of dramatic shift and a lot of investment coming into the region,” said Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, “and there are opportunities, no doubt, for future investment coming into this region and I believe First Nations should not be left out.” Top Stories

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