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Fort Frances young professionals hold rally over idled mill

A group of young professionals in Fort Frances is staging a community rally Wednesday, over the continuing shut-down of the local paper mill.

Organizers want the provincial government to take action to help re-open the paper mill

Jamie Petrin is the founder of ENGAGE Young Professionals Network. (supplied)

A group of young professionals in Fort Frances is staging a community rally Wednesday, demanding action from the province over the ongoing shut-down of the local paper mill.

"The way that we see it...the future of Fort Frances right now is kind of at stake," said Jamie Petrin, the founder of ENGAGE Young Professionals Network.

"So we're holding the rally just to gather people from the community together and grab the attention of our politicians. 

Town in 'desperate situation'

The last of the paper machines at the mill, owned by Resolute Forest Products, was shut down in January

Petrin said everyone in the community is feeling the pinch.

"I grew up in Fort Frances," she said. "Probably about a third of my school mates had parents who worked in the mill, and you know, now they don't have jobs."

"Now when I look downtown I see a lot of businesses with closed doors. And a lot of my friends can't come back here because there will never be jobs for them."

Petrin said people in the community are concerned about the recent breakdown of negotiations to sell the mill to a U.S. company. They're also worried that the idled mill will not be heated through the winter. 

Petrin says people will gather at the post office at noon on Wednesday, and proceed through the downtown towards the mill.

Members of the crowd will then direct emails, tweets, and phone calls to Bill Mauro, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, and Premier Kathleen Wynne. 

In an interview Wednesday afternoon with CBC News, Mauro said the government remains ready to do what it can to help Resolute and the American company reach a deal.

Asked if the province was prepared to help heat the mill over the winter, he said when he learned of the breakdown in talks last month, he "immediately began the process of seeing what is possible in that regard, and that work is still ongoing."

But the minister added that anything that might be done to preserve the assets for a future sale would require the cooperation of the owner (Resolute).  

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