By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—Red Rock Indian Band’s Ron Kanutski focused on creating wellness in community at Nokiiwin Tribal Council’s G’minoomaadozimin — We Are Living Well Health and Safety gathering in Thunder Bay.
“The idea is to create safety, not just in the workplace, but where does it come from,” Kanutski says. “It originates from self, so we have to look at self, family, the home, our community. If we are well in those areas, then it will go into our workplace.”
Kanutski says there was a good reaction to his Jan. 12 presentation, which he delivered to about 40 participants during morning and afternoon sessions at the Victoria Inn.
“Our teachings from yesterday are still valuable today,” Kanutski says. “It doesn’t have to be complex — there is a positivity in keeping things simple.”
Nokiiwin’s G’minoomaadozimin initiative is aimed at enhancing health and safety for vulnerable workers, families, and communities; shifting attitudes and behaviour; and creating a First Nation-centric health and safety culture. Nokiiwin serves Fort William, Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek, Pic Mobert, and three other First Nation communities located near Lake Nipigon.
“I’m very pleased that Nokiiwin has been able to put such a session on to bring a little bit more in-depth awareness with the health and safety issues that are being expressed with all the First Nations and the concerns and how we are able to establish methods of resolving our concerns,” says Ian Bannon, Fort William’s director of property and lands management. “Although we implement health and safety practices within our public works crews for example, consistency is important to maintain those practices. But again within the community, there’s all different aspects of health and safety, for example, emergency response issues that come into play.”
Bannon says the community recently lost a community member in a vehicle accident along Highway 61 between the community and Thunder Bay.
“It affects everyone, right down from the children who rode the school bus that [community] member operated, to the family, to the surrounding members in the community,” Bannon says. “Everyone is impacted by that. And how do we better prepare ourselves, how do we provide better support mechanisms for those groups. Those are the kind of factors that are essential within communities.”
The G’minoomaadozimin gathering also featured the creation of four graphic-designed lists of the ideas generated by the participants throughout the day.
“We are a very visual people, so this is a great approach to take with this type of conversation,” says Audrey Gilbeau, Nokiiwin’s executive director. “This initiative is very important to the work that we do with our communities. A big part of that is the partners that are involved with this initiative that are providing guidance and their expertise.”
Lynn Brownell, interim CEO with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, attended the gathering in a “learning and support role.”
“Our mandate is to deliver health and safety solutions to workplaces and employees across the province of Ontario,” Brownell says, noting her organization serves 162,000 members across the province. “When we see efforts like this, we come to the table in a support fashion and look to bring information and resources that can be repurposed and used in a more community-based approach and in an approach that works with the seven teachings.”