By Faye Sabourin
THUNDER BAY – Citizens of Pic Mobert First Nation living off-reserve met with Chief and Council in Sault Ste. Marie on December 6, 2014 and Thunder Bay on December 13, 2014 to discuss the connection between community development and a First Nation Constitution. Pic Mobert began drafting their constitution during constitution development workshops offered by the Restoration of Jurisdiction department of the Union of Ontario Indians in 2008 and 2013.
“I am very proud of all Pic Mobert’s accomplishments over the last few years. We achieved many milestones and I would like to thank the community members for trusting the process,” said Chief Johanna Desmoulin.
Chief Desmoulin spoke about the importance of constitution development and conducting community engagement sessions with off reserve citizens in addition to the on reserve citizens, to keep all citizens informed and engaged in the process.
Over the last five years, economic and community successes in Pic Mobert included the creation of a new business relationship with Regional Power on the Gitchi-Animkii Hydro-Electric project, the expansion of White Lake Limited Partnership, the successful ratification of the land and larger land base agreement and, more recently, the approval for the water treatment project. These milestones have increased employment by 115% since April 2013.
“It is an honour to be a part of the success, and it is all because of community patience and support that we were able to accomplish a lot within the last few years. Consistency is one of the main keys to our success,” said Councillor John Kwissiwa.
A constitution will reinforce Pic Mobert’s law-making process and powers. For example, when Pic Mobert ratifies its land code, land laws may need to be developed and a Pic Mobert First Nation Constitution will support and add force to these laws, eliminating any uncertainty community members may have as well as providing reassurance for third parties when conducting business.
A constitution can guarantee fairness to citizens whether a citizen is living on or off reserve. A constitution also supports the separation of politics from administration, which in itself contributes to stronger governance.
It is very difficult for a First Nation to consistently make progress because of the Indian Act’s short election terms. More and more communities are making their own rules and policies including election codes or election laws with longer terms. Supported by a First Nation Constitution, First Nation laws allow a community to maintain consistency and ensure stability. Pic Mobert’s elections are currently governed by the Indian Act.
Chief Johanna Desmoulin recognizes the importance and benefits of constitution development and plans to use the constitution-building sessions as a means to move forward and to gather input from the off reserve citizens.
For more information on First Nation Constitution Development, please call Faye Sabourin – Special Project Coordinator at 1-877-702-5200.