By John Nagy
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Fort William First Nation, Ont.- There’s going to be at least one new councillor in the Fort William First Nation council chambers for the upcoming two-year term. That’s because current councillor, Michele Solomon, is running as one of two candidates in the reserve’s race to become chief.
Facing off against the First Nation’s former chief, Georjann Morriseau, the eight-year councillor wants to see relationships on council and in the community continue to grow, especially coming out of the pandemic.
“Establish some working relationships at the council table and then spending some time hearing from the community and establishing some priorities for the community,” said Solomon, who has been a community development manager with the Ontario Native Women’s Association for the past five years.
“With the (COVID-19) pandemic situation, I don’t know if we ever got back to having good, open communication with the community since then. Returning to that is really important for me.”
Like most everywhere, major issues are not foreign to the First Nation located just south of Thunder Bay, but the long-time concern of unleashed dogs running around the reserve had begun to be tackled by the most recent council.
“There’s always more issues than resources in all honesty,” Solomon said. “We have issues for sure with the at-large dog has become a prominent issue in media right at this moment because Canada Post has basically sent this letter denying service as long as their letter carriers are at risk. Very fair for them to take that position.
“That was an issue that we were working on at the end of our term, was finalizing a plan for dealing with the at-large dog situation. That’s a high priority for the safety of the workers and definitely for children.
“In addition to that, some big issues for us are, of course, mental health and addictions is always a prominent issue, housing is always a prominent issue, economic development is always a prominent issue. These are issues that are ongoing and have high priority in our community.”
Solomon understands she has a formidable opponent in Morriseau who is both a former chief and councillor for the First Nation, but won’t stop working for the community if her eight-year political career comes to an end.
“(Losing the election) would be disappointing, but I would continue to work and I would continue to be involved in community issues,” Solomon said. “I care about the well-being of my community and that doesn’t end because a political career ends.
“For me, I’ve lived there for most of my life. My kids and grandkids live there. I’m interested in the well-being of the community regardless of whether I’m a politician or back to working in my career full-time.”
The Fort William First Nation election also boasts 61 candidates for the 12 councillor positions to be decided on May 27.
John Nagy is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/THE CHRONICLE-JOURNAL/LJI is a federally funded program