Audrey Gilbeau, Executive Director and chair of Governance for Nokiiwin Tribal Council in Northern Ontario, gave a presentation to the First Nations Safety Conference, Oct. 22, 2018, at the Nanaimo Conference Centre. The Nokiiwin Tribal Council serves six First Nation communities on the north shore of Lake Superior and territories, with a total population of 5,990 individuals (2,065 on reserve, 3,925 off reserve).

The Nokiiwin Tribal Council operates a satellite office in the City of Thunder Bay, "Health and safety is a necessary conversation related to productivity," says Glibeau. "Conversations in Northern Ontario have to carry a great distance to a wide array of communities. There are 133 First Nations in Ontario and every First Nation has a culture. A cookie cutter approach doesn't work. Knowledge transfer is a challenging task."

Nokiiwin translates from Ojibway to English into 'working,' says Gilbeau, "Policy has to be adapted community by community. We have it within our culture to draw on the ability to adapt. It's about accessing that strength and doing it respectfully." 

G'Minoomaadozimin is the Anishinabek term for Health - We are living well. Our journey.  "We are working on having safe workplaces, safer families, safer communities, but when you look at the health care sector and look at the First Nations there is a dichotomy. I recently attended a one-day workshop on Manitoulin Island in Northeast Ontario, and the number one thing to happen in discussions was the community response to disaster. What do we do if there's fire? Flood? Other disaster?"

Gilbeau says, "We need to start looking at health and safety training and the Nokiiwin Tribal Council earmarked $20,000 to training. It's not a big amount of money but provincial certifications are being encouraged and sought. To get action underway, you have to admit the tough things, the bad things that are happening. There are opiates, there are needles."

The tribal council has led the difficult discussion to get Human Resources policy changed. The communities have been able to set up job security with sick leave in the face of a need for addiction treatment.

"The number one issue in our communities is lateral violence.  We have set up a zero tolerance policy.  We call it Our Respectful Community , and it's made up from the Medicine Wheel. We recognize that it is 'hurt people' who go out and hurt people." 

[The G’minoomaadozimin Steering Committee is very proud of Our Respectful Community Policy based on the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Our Respectful Community is our depiction of the legislated Zero Tolerance policies on violence. The visual (at right) captures the teachings and the intention for how each of us respects one another, our workplace, and our community.]

Gilbeau says, "Our journey away from Lateral Violence has to come from within the community. One person can be the catalyst for the change." People, she says, need to hear 10 kind words a day to survive. They need 20 kind words a day to thrive, "It's about 'my' behaviour."

Contact Audrey Gilbeau Tel. (807) 474-4230 ext 4239. Cell (807) 621-7489. Fax (807) 474-4238.

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