Job development, land issues top Couchiching’s agenda

Couchiching Chief Chuck McPherson will be at the helm for another two years following his re-election last Thursday.
Incumbent councillors Dick Bird and Lucille Morrisseau also were returned, joining newcomers Clint Perreault, Chad Bruyere, Ida Linklater, and Donald Bruyere.
For the new band council, it will be a combination of new business and old.
In old business, ongoing litigation with the federal government regarding the management of former reserve lands, and further employment initiatives for the reserve, currently are front and centre in the chief’s mind.
“Certainly job development and settlement of a lot of land issues [are the big items],” Chief McPherson, who captured 156 votes to beat runner-up David Bruyere (135) to win his third-straight term and fourth overall, said yesterday in a telephone interview.
The band has been involved in a lawsuit with the federal government for several years regarding what the chief referred to as the “mismanagement” of lands entrusted to the Crown on behalf of the band.
Chief McPherson said all the land between what is now Pither’s Point Park and the edge of the reserve was supposed to be administered by Ottawa on behalf of the band.
Instead, he charged, it was sold and in some cases developed without any of the benefit coming back to the band.
“They’re supposed to look after our best interests, especially in land matters,” he said.
Chief McPherson made it clear the band’s lawsuit is seeking monetary compensation, not repatriation of the land in question. “We’re not trying to recoup the property,” he stressed.
The band also is seeking compensation for land lost when Highway 11 cut through the reserve. At the time, the band received nothing.
“In effect, what they did was give us our own property in exchange for the highway right-of-way,” the chief remarked.
Chief McPherson, who personally is a fan of the band-owned Borderland Thunder hockey club, said there are some ongoing concerns there, as well.
Fan support, for one, has not been as good as he would like.
“We need the support of the whole district to make it an economic success,” he said. “Empty seats don’t generate revenue.”
Another problem is the size of the league itself. With only five teams currently in the SIJHL, and three of those based in Thunder Bay, it is difficult to maintain healthy rivalries and the fan interest they generate.
“We need more teams in the league,” Chief McPherson noted. “I’ve heard people say it’s like watching the same movie over and over again.”
Ultimately, the fate of the hockey club will be determined by the entire council, he added.
But Chief McPherson is optimistic about the new Heron Landing Golf Club. Located on Frog Creek Drive at the north end of the reserve, the 18-hole course is scheduled to be fully operational as soon as the fairways green up this spring.
Club manager Shane Jourdain said a few weeks ago that a club pro has been retained and a fully-equipped clubhouse should be open for business by the end of the season at the latest.
Another new venture for Couchiching is radio station CKWO FM 92.3. “The Wolf,” as it is known, first hit the airwaves late last year and Chief McPherson said he’s quite pleased with the feedback he has received to date.
“I’ve heard a number of favourable comments on that,” he said, noting the band currently is trying to amend the station’s licence to enable it to reach a broader listening audience.
“It’s a low-power transmitter,” he explained. “We’re looking at the possibility of increasing our ability to transmit a further distance.”
Chief McPherson said he sees the radio station as a successful example of job development.
“Originally the idea was to get kids involved in the program,” he remarked. “In fact, we have one young man from the community working there now and we hope to have more.”
One area that might be explored in the future is advertising on the station, which will create further jobs.
Seven candidates were vying for chief in last Thursday’s election, with Diane Adams coming a distant third behind Chief McPherson and Bruyere with 83 votes.
Rounding out the other candidates were Rudy Morrisseau (78), Harry Morrisseau (67), Douglas Bruyere (20), and Calvin Morrisseau (16).
There had been 42 candidates running for the six seats on band council.
The band said 628 people cast their ballots out of the 1,405 who were eligible to vote.
That number includes nearly 200 mail-in ballots from off-reserve voters.
(Fort Frances Times)