The mayor of Thunder Bay and the chief of Fort William First Nation signed a historic declaration on Tuesday night.
The two communities pledged to work together on economic development opportunities and to tackle shared social problems. Mayor Keith Hobbs and Chief Peter Collins committed to a stronger partnership between Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation.
Phil Pelletier, a long-time councillor for Fort William First Nation, said he hopes better communication will help deal with differences of opinion. He said protecting the Loch Lomond watershed is one dispute that the city and reserve still need to resolve.
Pelletier also said that by working together, the two communities can better deal with pressing social problems like addiction. "We have the same issue that the city has … it's the drugs that are taking our kids away from us," he said.
A traditional drumming performance opened the event. After the signing, city and band councillors shared a meal in the Fort William community centre.
Band councillor Walter Bannon said the agreement has been a long time coming.
"One of the key things for me was that the city acknowledged the fact that they are on the traditional lands of Fort William," he said.
Bannon added that the timing is important, as both the city and First Nation stand to benefit from economic and job opportunities.
"We should be a part of any development and [the city] should bring us to the table as well," he said.
Thunder Bay city councillor Linda Rydholm agreed. She represents the Neebing ward, right beside Fort William First Nation.
She said in order to attract businesses, government support and money to the area "working together always works better."