‘Women take care of our communities,’ says new Chief

Brenda Chartrand and Marilyn Sinclair

Washagamis Bay councillor Brenda Chartrand (left) and chief Marilyn Sinclair (right).

A First Nation west of Kenora, Ont. has elected an all female chief and council — the first of its kind for the First Nation.

Eariler this month Marilyn Sinclair was elected chief of Washagamis Bay, alongside councillors Arvel Cherry, Brenda Chartrand and Starla Ledoux.

Sinclair said she is excited to be working with the three other women, and she believes they will get a lot of work done.

“It’s wonderful. The women are awesome. Women take care of our communities … I can depend on these women,” said Sinclair.

Female chiefs on the rise

“I think it’s a good thing for the nation,” said Cora Voyageur, a sociologist from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

The number of female chiefs has been on the rise since 1990, from 45 to approximately 120 across Canada today, according to Voyageur.

“What we know is women are more collaborative, more willing to do tedious work.”

In First Nations culture, men would traditionally seek guidance from women, because women were seen as advisors, said Voyageur. She also said that women are different than their male counterparts — they are more likely to be educated, and more willing to deal with “the human side of the community” including matters involving health and healing.

“Women are responsible for transmission of culture, taking care of the young, and taking care of the community,” said Voyageur.

Housing, water and employment

The new chief’s agenda includes improving housing, water and employment conditions. She says the community needs new housing for approximately 150 on-reserve band members.

Sinclair also wants to put an end to bottled drinking water. Washagamis Bay has been on a boil water advisory since 2008, according to the government of Canada’s website.

“I’d like to look at a water treatment plant for our First Nation, so we can drink our own water,” said Sinclair.

“I believe we will get a lot done during my term,” said Sinclair. “We have a strong voice within these women I’m working with.”