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New Fort Albany Chief Focuses on Protecting his People

Fort Albany’s new Chief is focusing on racism, specifically in Timmins.

Leo Metatawabin was elected as Chief last week and says he wants to focus on ending racism in the north. Metatawabin says he was not impressed when he heard about two Indigenous people passing away in Timmins after encountering the Timmins Police Service this past winter. 21-year-old Joey Knapaysweet had been living in Timmins to access medical services not available in Fort Albany. According to police report February 3rd, he had an interaction with Timmins police and one of the officers fired a gun. Knapaysweet died. 62-year-old Agnes Sutherland, used a wheelchair and suffered from health complications. Fort Albany Chief reports say when police attended the scene of the local shelter, Ms. Sutherland was treated roughly while being taken into custody. She suffered severe complications during her detention and ultimately was taken to hospital where she died on February 4th. The SIU is currently investigating both deaths.

These incidents started multiple controversial conversations on social media. Shortly after, Ontario’s Human Rights said that racism is normalized in Timmins. Metatawabin says that is unacceptable. He says he wants to look into the incidents and ensure the Timmins Police Service has no racism in the company and is doing what is good for the people. Metatawabin hopes there is a way for Timmins to respectfully reconcile with the area’s Indigenous people and end the racism problem in the city.

He says that isn’t his only goal during his term as Chief. Metatawabin says he will also plans to talk with the government about the Ring of Fire. He says he didn’t see any policies or protocols in place to protect some of the First Nation’s land surrounding the project. He says he will be writing some policies for negotiation purposes. Metatawabin says some of the policies will be to protect the environment not only for the First Nations people to use for traditional ceremonies but also for all people.

He says he wants to see people work together to preserve and respect Indigenous culture.

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