By Duane Hicks
Fort Frances Times
“We can do better.”
It was the slogan of Sara Mainville’s election campaign—and a belief she’s holding high after being elected the new chief of Couchiching First Nation last Thursday.
The 44-year-old lawyer is no newcomer to First Nations’ politics. She was a Couchiching councillor from 1998-2000 and again from 2010-12, as well as having been a legal advisor for several First Nations for the past nine years.
“I’m well-acquainted with the operations of a First Nation and probably some better practices,” noted Chief Mainville.
“That’s one of the things I emphasized in my campaign,” she added.
“My slogan was ‘We can do better,’ meaning a more inclusive governance [model] could really serve the community so much better.”
Chief Mainville said she used social media like Facebook and Twitter as part of her campaign—opening lines of communication she intends to keep open during her tenure as chief.
“I was trying to show how I would be as a chief,” she explained.
“I would inform people about what’s going on, some of the pressing issues, and educate community members on why certain things are threatening the sustainability of our community.”
For example, faced with ongoing funding cuts, Chief Mainville wants to get people to “lobby more coherently and focus on more professionalism.”
Chief Mainville said one of the reasons she ran for chief was she was finding that major projects, such as the recently-built Couchiching area, were going ahead without a clear indication the whole community supported them or not.
“One of the things I promised I would do was, from the germination of an idea, to start talking to the community about major projects,” she remarked.
Chief Mainville said “some of the major projects that people thought may have been coming around the bend,” including a possible school, will be have to be discussed more.
“I think what we’re going to do is talk to the community about whether or not we can support those things,” she noted.
“One of the things I’m also committed to is working with the district and separate school boards, and trying to make sure that our children are served better in their education needs,” Chief Mainville added.
“Why not fix what we already have?”
And she definitely wants to see more economic development.
“I threw some ideas out there but again it goes back to square one—we have to start with an idea, gauge community support around it, and make sure it’s something that we as a community can invest in,” she stressed.
“One of the things that one of the young councillors, Ron Archie, has been mentioning is why don’t we develop a small business centre,” added Chief Mainville.
“That’s one of the things we’ll take a look at.”
Chief Mainville said she also wants Couchiching, which she prides as a “progressive, inclusive community,” to have better relationships within the district.
“I know that there is a lot of our young families that are moving to the Town of Fort Frances, getting mortgages and nice homes, and I am celebrating that,” she remarked.
“We also have some facilities that are giving them really good employment, like the youth detention centre in town.
“I think that we’re better off, especially with the state of the district economy now, to work together,” added Chief Mainville.
“I am very open to that.”
Chief Mainville is joined on council by re-elected councillors Ed Yerxa, Dave Bruyere, Lucille “Bugsy” Morrisseau, and Christine Jourdain and newcomers Ron Archie and Bill Perrault.
A total of seven candidates ran for chief in last Thursday’s election while 29 vied for the six seats on council.