By Leslie Knibbs
THESSALON – A young man who completed a Mining Engineer diploma at Cambrian College in 2016 was unsuccessful in finding a career in the mining industry because of a downturn in the industry.
“Finding work in the mining industry was harder to come by,” says 22-year-old Jared Bissaillion, a lifelong resident of Thessalon First Nation (TFN). Bissaillion, always active in his community, looked closer to home for opportunity and at the same time, looked for something where he could continue working towards making his community a better place.
TFN had been without a Chief for ten months with the passing of Chief Albert Bisaillon. Jared made the decision at the beginning of 2017 to make a run for Chief of his community in the upcoming November 17 election. With a keen and caring interest in becoming more involved in decisions affecting all citizens, Jared decided rather than run for a council seat, he “would be able to achieve more and get more done as Chief”.
“I’ve been a band member of TFN my whole life,” says Jared. “Thessalon is my home and will always be my home. I’ve done a lot in my life good and bad. I’ve also learned a lot in my life.” With six individuals running for the vacant position, Jared feels with this wide-open field, and no incumbent, he has a good chance to be elected.
Jared has been doing a lot of door to door canvassing in his bid for election and says he is “getting a positive response”. He is finding more people including younger ones are getting involved in community affairs and decision making. This is not surprising with half of the Indigenous population being young people and children across Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
“I stand for my community, the band members that are a part of it, and for the land that we stand on today. I want the best for all band members young, old [and] not born yet. I want our community to be the role model, and, the leader for all first nations to follow.”
Jared has been active in his community for years and continues his efforts to make life better for all of those living in TFN. Like others in First Nation citizens, he has a clear and honest devotion to respecting and caring for Mother Earth.
“We only have one mother earth, and we only have one life time to take care of her. Currently I’ve been a part of many projects within the community to begin this process. Some of the project includes Wetland Turtle and Amphibian Survey, bat boxes, and [an] aboriginal fund for species at risk. The Wetland turtle and amphibian survey was successful and its moving into year two of the project.”
“The Dump is another concern for the community”, he says. “Right now, the community is working on a solution for the dump. This will hopefully happen within the next summer. The dump will turn into a transfer station and we will start actively recycling in the community.”
Another goal if elected is Jared’s aim to work towards getting better education for citizens. According to Jared, “Education is sometimes a hard topic to talk about. At this time funding is at its limit for post-secondary education. People feel like the community is doing nothing to help them. I want to change that, at this moment accessing free courses and taking training is a great way to show initiative. If I get in I’ll begin the process of looking into alternative ways to get our people an education.”
One other concern that he is prepared to address if elected is assisting off-reserve citizens.
“I would like to get a new worker dedicated to supporting our off-reserve members. This worker will help to provide contacts to people in their area for support. Some [examples] of this is the Friendship Centers for support, adult learning centers to further your education, and Ontario works for training and jobs. By providing our members with this we are helping them, help themselves.”
Bissaillon is respectful to all citizens looking to youth for getting active and taking on leadership roles as well as honouring tradition and learning from Elders as teachers.
“The Elders of our community are just as important as youth, the adults, [and] the young ones. For without the elders the circle wouldn’t be complete. We need to support and talk with the Elders of our community. The knowledge that they have could be lost if we don’t do something now. In the tradition the elders are the story tellers and teachers for our young people. We should start going back to our roots and listening to what our Elders have to say.”
At present, Jared is employed by TFN as a Project Assistant under Mike Chiblow in the Economic Development Office.