Thoughts on the potential for economic development between St. Thomas and First Nations of Ontario

The following was forwarded to City Scope by St. Thomas resident Bev Walpole and illustrates the “outside-of-the-box” thinking so sorely lacking today. It’s a case of addressing a large-scale national issue with a made-in-St.Thomas solution.Please take a few moments to read Bev’s paper and feel free to comment. This is certainly far removed from the initiatives currently being floated by local politicians and business development groups . . .

From 1978-1985 I was a public health inspector working for the federal department then known as Health and Welfare Canada, Medical Services Branch. My duties included advising Inuit and First Nations communities about sanitation and environmental issues. My work took me throughout the Northwest Territories, part of what is now Nunavut, Northern Saskatchewan and the province of Manitoba. During those years I encountered problems in those communities such as inadequate housing, inadequate and improper disposal of sewage, unsafe water supplies and the myriad of social issues endured by the citizens of those communities.

Throughout those years, I did my best to advocate for more and better housing, clean, safe water supplies and safe disposal of sewage and household wastes. I approached my own department as well as the Department of Indian affairs on behalf of the communities. I encouraged the leaders of the community to work towards improvement of conditions on their reserves and villages. The response from the community leaders was to ask where the money would come from to improve their situation. The Federal government departments for whom I worked and to whom I advocated on behalf of the communities responded with excuses such as “there is no money; resources are limited; and they’ll only wreck it anyway.” It was frustrating to visit these isolated communities, each time reporting on conditions and submitting recommendations for improvement and realizing that probably nothing would be done to make the situation better. I recall mentioning to a friend that if the temperature was to increase in the northern communities, disease would spread like wildfire because of the improper disposal of human waste, and the consumption of untreated or improperly treated water supplies.
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Natives urge Port Stanley harbour cleanup

Fishing tugs in Port Stanley harbour

Fishing tugs in Port Stanley harbour

Aboriginal voices have joined the call for the federal government to dredge and remove contamination from the harbour at Port Stanley.

The Walpole Island First Nation is even willing to do the work and bury contaminated soil at a secure site on its land along Lake St. Clair, a representative said.

The Walpole Island First Nation claims the harbour and western Lake Erie as its own.

Members of Walpole Island have been watching as Transport Canada and Central Elgin continue talks that may see the harbour turned over to the local municipality. The First Nation has adopted a wait-and-see attitude as talks continue and its land claim lawsuit sits in the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario.

“We are very concerned about our harbour and we want to make sure the contamination is dealt with and there is dredging,” said former chief Dean Jacobs.
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