Northern Action Plan set to address issues

By Mac Christie

A provincial plan to recognize and deal with opportunities and issues in Northern Saskatchewan will be headed by several familiar faces.

The Northern Action Plan, originally conceived two years ago by the provincial government, will be led by Goodsoil’s Toby Greschner, an assistant deputy minister for the Northern Affairs branch of the Ministry of First Nations and Métis Relations.

The plan has four broad pillars, including healthy people, educated citizens, safe communities and a strong economy in the North. Over the next three years the provincial government will invest $1.5 million into the project.

Ron Crowe, deputy minister for the Ministry of First Nations and Métis Relations, said Greschner will co-ordinate the project, working as a go-between for northern leaders and the government.

“We wanted to ensure we had the representation of northern leadership,” Crowe explained. “Toby was chosen (for his role) because of his ability to work, listen and talk with northern leaders and he’ll be able to bring that back to the government.”

Those who will make up the Northern Leaders Table for the project include Bobby Woods, mayor of Buffalo Narrows, Bruce Fiddler of New North, Lennard Morin of Cumberland House, Louis Gardiner of the Métis Nation Saskatchewan, Chief Eric Sylvestre of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council and Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

Woods has been chosen to chair the group of leaders, and he said it’s crucial that the project incorporates northern municipalities as well as First Nations and Métis interests.

“I think the most important thing is to empower our communities to take the initiative so that we can deal with our own issues,” Woods said. “We also need to identify areas of support that are required from governments and other agencies.”

He added it’s important to have the northern leaders involved in a leadership capacity.

“It eliminates the perception that the government is doing it,” he said, emphasizing that it is coming from community leaders.

Woods noted the project was delayed by difficulties in getting all the different interest groups together. As well, he said the group is still looking for co-ordinators to do grassroots research in communities, in order to discover problems and possible solutions.

“We’re still in the growing stages,” Woods said. “I have every bit of faith we’ll get the cooperation and participation from the communities.”

Crowe agreed, noting the group won’t be able to move forward with a recommendation or action until consultation and discussion of ideas in northern communities is complete.

“I can’t guarantee a specific action,” he said, “but I can guarantee a desire to move on things that are important and relevant to northern leaders and citizens.”

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