Fort William chief wants to rebuild relationship with Thunder Bay mayor

Dennis Ward
The long-time chief of Fort William First Nation hopes the relationship with the mayor of Thunder Bay can be repaired.

Earlier this year, Peter Collins, chief and the CEO of Fort William, called for Bill Mauro to step down from his role on the embattled Thunder Bay Police Services Board.

In the letter Collins wrote, “I have come to the conclusion that in light of the persistent failure by the Mayor of Thunder Bay to acknowledge, by his actions and words, the seriousness of systemic racism that exists, there is an inherent conflict of interest in the Mayor’s seat on the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.

“I believe it requires that they Mayor be removed from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board and replaced by further indigenous representation.”

However Mauro, whose brother is also an active member of the Thunder Bay Police didn’t step down.

Media reported at the time that Mauro said that his comments were misunderstood.

Collins says it’s time to move on.

“We’ve put that stuff behind us now and I’ve had a meeting with the mayor to try and close that gap again and start building a positive relationship with the mayor of the city right now,” Collins said on Face to Face.

Collins says he told Mauro in a meeting “we’ve been here forever, your community and our community and we have to got to learn to get past our differences and we’ll continue to grow if we work together.”

One of the issues the two communities have collaborated on over the past six years was getting the James Street swing bridge reopened to vehicular traffic.

Damaged by a fire in 2013, it took a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada to get CN Rail to repair the bridge.

It opened to traffic again this month.

At the time of the fire, racial tensions were high in Thunder Bay with some posting on social media about letting the fire continue to burn until it burnt down Fort William First Nation.

“I think it tells you that racism is still alive and well in the city of Thunder Bay and the impacts of that fire brought out a lot of naysayers.

“It’s a terrible way to think but at the end of the day I think if you see the folks travelling across that bridge today, they’re all excited to be utilizing it,” says Collins.

The bridge closure meant additional travel time, down a busy provincial highway that was dangerous.

“The loss of life on that highway was very detrimental to our community and not only our community. There was a few deaths that some of them were people that migrated into our community to work everyday.”

With an estimated 15,000 vehicles travelling across the bridge daily, there was also a huge economic hit to both Fort William First Nation and the city of Thunder Bay.

The ten-term chief also discusses the recent controversy over cannabis in the community on Face to Face.

Earlier this year, a prohibited cannabis shop opened up in Fort William, only to be shut down shortly after.

Collins says they’re still consulting with the community on whether they want it or not.

“We have a letter of approval for the cannabis license, there’s a few stages to go through yet but we’re going to go through the consultation process with our community,” says Collins.

“If they say yes at the end of the day then we have that license or we will have that license and we’ll be the ones that operate it so there’s still some controversy around that issue.

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