Kaakewaaseya Justice Services opens Fort Frances office

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Kaakewaaseya Justice Services held its grand opening yesterday from its new office in Fort Frances.

Elders Priscilla Simard of Couchiching First Nation and Betty Degagne of Naicatchewenin First Nation conducted the smudging and held prayers during the opening. Elder Simard said it will be important to smudge the office often because of what the employees will be dealing with.

Broken Horn provided the traditional drum. Four of the six members present were youths. During some opening remarks, Indigenous Support Network team lead Cassandra Bundz said it was meaningful to have the next generation play a role in the grand opening.

“It’s important to honour and create space for Anishinaabe youth to feel safe and empowered in who they are,” she said. “Our work here is guided by the medicine wheel operating together as a circle of a care and as the circle of life goes, children are good medicine and their songs will echo through this building and uplift those who enter as they are our future.”

Kaakewaaseya Justice Services has been around since 2006. Ten years later, the department was given a name and colours through ceremony. The name kaakewaaseya was given, meaning “the good path,” and river in their logo represents said path.

Since then, the department has expanded across the nation with locations in Grassy Narrows, Wabeseemong, Dryden, Lac Seul, two office locations in Kenora, and now one in Fort Frances.

Bundz said Kaakewaaseya Justice Services aims to provide accessible and sustainable services to survivors, families, and communities.

“This is achieved by supporting those who have experienced crime and trauma by creating a safe space, allowing [them] to feel and be present, to live with purpose and meaning though a heart-centred approach toward all life,” she said. “Our team utilizes the seven teachings to govern themselves in a way that promotes positivity, acceptance, and growth.”

Bundz said Kaakewaaseya’s goals are accessibility, sustainability, support, and accountability.

She talked about how colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism affects the mental health of Indigenous families.

Bundz said Kaakewaaseya proactively focuses on actions to eliminate systemic racism, including removing systemic barriers and navigating through the racial inequities in services.

They look to create safe spaces and accessible culturally-relevant resources. They seek to provide supports to individuals, families, and communities including within the context of an immediate crisis.

Their justice services include community justice, youth reintegration, Indigenous bail verification and supervision, Gladue reports, Gladue aftercare, and the Indigenous Support Network.

Following the opening, Bundz sent special thanks to Batter & Cream, Pleasing to the Pallet, Selective Services, Betty’s of Fort Frances, Tracy Isaac Catering, and all those who attended yesterday.

She felt it important to say that anything unused is given away. Leftover food from the grand opening was distributed at the Nugget Motel.

The new office is located at 516 Portage Ave., where the United Native Friendship Centre previously resided. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

“You do not need an appointment, there is no dress code,” said Bundz. “You are welcome as you are, you are safe here.”