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Province investing $3.7M in Indigenous construction training

Workers will learn construction techniques, heavy equipment operation for Highway 17 twinning project
The twinning project to widen and four-lane Highway 17 between Kenora and Manitoba.

The province is investing $3.7 million in construction training for Indigenous residents in Treaty 3 territory in Northern Ontario.

Announced on Nov. 9, the funding will go toward training 110 people as craft workers, heavy equipment operators, generation construction workers, and concrete workers in advance of the Highway 17 twinning project between Manitoba and Kenora, which is currently in development.

Training will prioritize workers who are unemployed, underemployed, or at risk of losing their jobs. Some of the jobs to be created pay up to $44 per hour.

The agreement will impact residents in the communities who are part of the Niiwin Wendaanimok (Four Winds) Partnership, an Indigenous-owned and operated corporation dedicated to providing construction contracting and environmental monitoring services in Treaty 3 territory with a mandate to employ Anishinaabe workers and assets in development projects and ensure Anishinaabe laws and voices are respected in development within their territory.

The communities involved include Washagamis Bay First Nation, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, Wauzhusk Onigum First Nation, and Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation.

"Historically, we Anishinaabeg in Treaty 3 held a key position in the governance, the economy and especially the transportation system of Turtle Island. With the support of some Supreme Court decisions and some willing partners, we are now reclaiming that position,” said Lorraine Cobiness, chief of the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation.

“This training project developed by our company in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is another step along our road to full participation in the life and economy of our Treaty territory. Fasten your seatbelt – there is so much more to come."

Under the announcement, each participant will receive up to $3,000 toward transportation, child care and other expenses that could act as barriers to participation.

Training will run from March 2021 to July 2023.

“Our government is once again demonstrating its commitment to supporting the skilled trades while promoting inclusion and opportunities in Indigenous communities,” said Greg Rickford, minister of Northern development, mines, natural resources and forestry, and minister of Indigenous affairs.

“Today’s investments will help to further bridge the opportunity gap for Indigenous workers, their families, and their communities. This project will be a game-changer for many of Kenora’s Indigenous peoples who can now look forward to a more prosperous, secure future.”

The Highway 17 twinning project, which was announced more than a decade ago, involves widening the highway from two to four lanes, reducing traffic and travel times, increasing road safety, and boosting the local economy.

An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 vehicles travel the highway daily.