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Remote First Nation a finalist for national community of the year award

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Red Rock Indian Band Chief Marcus Hardy is excited his community is the runner-up for a prestigious Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (Cando) award. – Photo supplied

By Sam Laskaris

RED ROCK INDIAN BAND – Officially, Chief Marcus Hardy’s First Nation ended up as the runner-up for a prestigious award.

But Hardy, Chief of Red Rock Indian Band in northwestern Ontario, is rather excited that his community was recently thrust into the national spotlight.

Red Rock Indian Band was one of the two finalists for Cando’s 2023 community of the year award. Cando stands for the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers. It is the national organization that promotes economic development in Indigenous communities across Canada.

Norway House Cree Nation from Manitoba ended up being selected as the top community at the Cando Conference, which concluded on June 29 in Membertou, Nova Scotia.

“Congratulations to the winner,” Chief Hardy said of Norway House Cree Nation. “But I think just being a finalist is a winner, too. We’re very excited about it. We still feel like we were winners.”

Chief Hardy, who has been the Chief of his First Nation since 2019, was joined at the Cando Conference by Jacob Wawia, the community development assistant for Red Rock Indian Band.

Chief Hardy delivered a presentation on his First Nation’s economic development accomplishments.

All conference delegates who attended the awards presentations were allowed to vote on who they though should be declared the winners. Besides the Community of the Year award, two other categories were also contested: Economic Development Officer of the Year and Private Sector Business Award. James Stevens from Millbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia was chosen as the top economic development officer and Nova Scotia’s Bayside Development Corporation took top honours in the business category.

Chief Hardy’s First Nation has had numerous accolades worth boasting about.

“It’s a great testament to the team we have working for us,” he said of Red Rock’s finalist selection.

One of the more noteworthy projects Red Rock Indian Band is involved with was announced earlier this year when the First Nation reached an agreement with the BMI Group to open a heavy-cargo port.

As a result, Red Rock has become a major transportation hub as its shipping lanes connect to Lake Superior.

The First Nation’s main community is Lake Helen, which is situated about 120 kilometres east of Thunder Bay.

Red Rock was previously known primarily for being a timber and mill community, but that has changed over the years.

The First Nation now has various contracts with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. Other ventures in the community include a gas station, plumbing and heating business, forestry operations, and real estate rentals.

Red Rock Indian Band also has several partnerships with rock crushing, mining, and drilling companies.

Hardy said he also attended various panels that were held during the four-day Cando Conference.

“There were a lot of good ideas discussed,” he said. “There were talks about different types of partnerships and a thinking-outside-of-the-box ideas.”

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