Last Sunday, after the church service, I had lunch with my family at a local fast food restaurant. Along with my family were other church members, including my uncle and this week’s guest preacher.
Like usual, our conversation revolved around current events in the local area. I brought up the fact that I had checked out the toll booth on Friday and paid my $2 fee.
My comment instantly changed the topic of discussion to events of the newly-erected toll booth. No one was really giving their opinion one way or the other about the set-up. We were simply discussing the facts and some were curiously asking questions surrounding the controversy which lead to the actions taken by Couchiching.
Apparently we upset some people by merely talking about the issue because, as they were about to leave, a couple decided to chime in on our conversation. They approached our table in a rather hostile way.
The man targeted my uncle and was using profanity that should not be mentioned in any public establishment—and will not be mentioned in this paper.
Now normally I am up for a good debate, but I decided to stay silent at the moment. I was amongst my fellow church people, and it already was awkward.
The man who confronted my uncle said to him, “It’s just one dollar.” My uncle, who had not sided with anyone, invited the young man to come back and explain the details of the situation. But the man just left, still bitter.
Now that got me thinking. Not only are we supposed to pay at the toll booth, and refusing to do so would be offensive, but even acknowledging that it exists now is an offence to some people.
What I learned that day is that this toll booth is going to cause great division among the local population. If you asked the average person, I don’t think there would be very many people who oppose the First Nation’s cause.
It also is rather obvious, to me, that Couchiching does not intend to collect this toll permanently, but rather is hoping to send a message to the government.
But the way the chief and council went about it may not be the most diplomatic. It now forces people to choose sides. And even people who have remained neutral, like my uncle, are perceived to have chosen sides.
I also would like to mention that when I paid the toll last Friday, the workers were very nice and courteous to me.
They made sure I was equipped with a letter to send to the minister of Indian Affairs of how I was inconvenienced by their toll booth, which proved my original theory that the toll booth is merely there to create tension and force government to act on behalf of the complaints of non-aboriginals as well as aboriginals.
I guess what I’m trying to get across is that I’m hoping this issue can be resolved sooner than later. We don’t need anything to come between the good relationship that Fort Frances shares with Couchiching.