Age of renewal

There is some silent muttering in the background. “Fort Frances is dying!”  The loss of paper manufacturing and the loss of wood rights for the forests surrounding Fort Frances bothers many residents. The empty store fronts on Scott Street are signs the future does not shine. 

Yet, it is important to understand that Fort Frances has been through this turmoil before with the shuttering of the Shevlin Clarke lumber yards, the tearing down of the buildings and the pulling up of tracks that led through the community. Probably when the Hudson Bay Trading post closed, district people wondered about their future. Would agriculture sustain the district? At the same time, some business entrepreneurs wondered if tourism might be the life blood of this old community.

The other day, a friend of mine wondered if in the future he and his wife might be able to sell their home, downsize and even move to where their children are located. It is a question often asked of seniors whose children have found careers away from Fort Frances. Will we be able to afford to live close to them? Will we be able to sell our home for today’s values?

And while I listened to the question, I couldn’t help but see how the population of Fort Frances is slowly marching forward to the diverse populations of our larger centers, bringing new cultures and foods to our community and expanding our understanding of our country’s futures. Many of our new resident families are purchasing businesses and enrolling their children in our schools and attracting friends and relatives to our communities in the district.

In 2022, Canada received over 400,000 permanent residents and today we have over one million temporary visitors, the majority of which are students attending our colleges and universities. Most look forward to remaining in Canada when they complete their degrees. We have those temporary visitors attending Confederation College in Fort Frances and most are holding down part-time jobs in our community.

Fort Frances and the district has a problem with housing. We do not have the space to grow student populations nor have adequate accommodations for permanent housing for immigrants with qualifications to locate with their families to our community.

History tells us that that the ambition of new immigrants brings a wealth of new ideas and opportunities to communities. It might be the answer to the muttering in the background. It is worth expanding immigration to the district. These new residents are the future of the Rainy River district just as previous immigrants brought new ideas and succeeded in business in our communities.