FORT FRANCES—While it hadn’t been erected yet as of 2 p.m. on Friday, two hours later than planned, the Couchiching First Nation band council still was vowing that a controversial toll booth will go up on Highway #11 near the Noden Causeway by later this afternoon.
“This morning, Coun. Dan Mainville and myself met with the province in Winnipeg,” Chief Chuck McPherson told a crowd of community members and media gathered at the site of the proposed toll booth shortly before 1 p.m.
“They tabled some offers, I told them I would bring it back to the council for discussion,” he added.
“In the interim, the [federal] Minister of Indian Affairs phoned and he’s also in transit, and asked that we not do this,” Chief McPherson noted.
“But I just discussed it with council,” he said. “We’re going to be talking with the minister [Chuck Strahl] at 5 o’clock this afternoon but in the interim, we’re going to be moving the toll booth in within the next two hours.”
The few dozen community members on hand cheered when they heard council’s decision.
One police vehicle was seen in the distance.
Chief McPherson said the province, meanwhile, offered some unspecified economic development opportunities.
“They want to sit down and talk about it,” he noted. “I said we’re going to sit down as a council and take a look at them.”
While the province has offered some cash, Chief McPherson said the community wants something on an annualized basis—and right now the province is not prepared to go there.
“And anything that the federal minister has to say, I’ll apprise the council right at 5 o’clock,” he adding.
Strahl will not be coming to the area, the chief said, but this is the first time since Couchiching announced the toll booth in late April that the minister has contacted him concerning it.
“It’s sad that it takes action like this to get a response from the guy who has the responsibility for dealing with First Nations,” Chief McPherson remarked.
“We’re going to listen to what he has to say,” he pledged.
“But I said, in the interim, we said that the toll booth is going to go up and a toll booth is going to go up,” he vowed.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)