Manitoulin Island has much to celebrate in its residents

Perhaps it is a thing about islands in general, but a common observation about Manitoulin Island is that when fortune or circumstance brings people to live here, it is usually the case that they move heaven and earth to be able to stay, or, if they must move again because of work, they plan on one day returning to live on the Island. Often they do purchase property and usually they find a way of returning.

These are not people born and bred here in our diverse small communities but people that, for one reason or another, have come to Manitoulin.

The leadership of two municipal councils reflects this: Ian Anderson came to Manitoulin to work for the Ministry of Natural Resources over 40 years ago as a Conservation Officer and this fall he sought and was elected to the mayor’s job in Billings Township.

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In the Northeast Town, Al MacNevin was re-elected to the mayor’s seat this fall. Mr. MacNevin originally came to Manitoulin as a Bell Canada employee and has been active in Little Current and the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (following municipal amalgamation) politics for nearly 30 years.

These are only two examples of individuals who, when the circumstances of work first brought them to Manitoulin, chose to stay here, raise their families here and become involved in their communities.

They are cited only as examples because there are, literally, hundreds of people here who, although they are not Haweaters or of First Nations descent, have discovered that “something about Manitoulin” keeps them here or, if the circumstances of work take them away for a while, choose to return.

Faithful readers of Petra Wall’s monthly column Now and Then may have observed the sameness with which each of these intimate interviews with Manitoulin seniors and elders concludes: people, whether they have lived here all of their lives or who have come here and chosen to remain and to live their lives here, all conclude these interviews with a version of the observation that, “there is nowhere else I would rather be than on Manitoulin.”

As rural Northern regions go, Manitoulin certainly punches above her weight.

On the national stage this year, we have seen Jeannette Corbiere Lavell from Wiikwemkoong elevated to membership in the Order of Canada in recognition of a lifetime of work on behalf of aboriginal women in Canada. We have seen Dr. Dieter Poenn recognized as a Canadian Family Physician of the Year in recognition of more than 30 years of exemplary practice in rural medicine where he has been a member of the Northeast Manitoulin Family Health Team and its predecessor Little Current Medical Associates. We have seen Dawn Madahbee Leach recognized as one of the most 100 powerful women in Canada in recognition of her work in improving economic development and growth of Canadian First Nation communities. We have seen Manitoulin Transport, firmly rooted and headquartered in Gore Bay, continue to grow and become Canada’s most diverse transportation company, offering employment opportunities to Manitoulin people throughout Canada and beyond. We have seen the graduates of both Manitoulin Secondary School and Wikwemikong High School accomplish great things in the professions, business and in the graduates’ communities as volunteers and as leaders.

This is a special place: for all of these reasons and more, as a newspaper publishing business we have a duty to represent all that is best about Manitoulin; to help and encourage people to feel as positive as possible about the place they call home.

In a parallel vein, it is an important mandate of our publishing business to tell positive stories about Manitoulin Island that are directed to the tourist visitors and potential visitors who enable Manitoulin to enjoy a flourishing tourism industry as part of a healthy economy that makes Manitoulin a great place for people to thrive.

We do this through both print and online. The venerable This is Manitoulin magazine reaches 57,000 individuals and families each year as the Manitoulin Island tourist lure book. Its distribution is virtually all off-Island.

Manitoulin’s Magazine, 30,000 copies, is distributed on Manitoulin and aboard the Chi-Cheemaun and is geared to people who have chosen to visit here and provides them with trips to take and lists of things to see, do and in which to participate.

The tourism website exploremanitoulin.com is a portal into our communities for potential tourist visitors who are responding to the slogan ‘Ontario’s Island Retreat’ and who want to learn more through  this digital mode as well as about where they may stay and what they can do when they come here.

Part of the community newspaper business, for responsible publishers, is to encourage economic growth and activity.

In the case of the Manitoulin Publishing Co. Ltd., that has meant a focus on tourism as this is an industry that a business like ours can help grow. That is why we faithfully publish these important tourism magazines. That is why we created the Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic three years ago: to encourage a class of fishermen who had been absent from Manitoulin for the past two decades to come back and fish for cash prizes and enhance the tourism industry.

(This has been a successful event, as last year more than 700 people had fun participating in the four-week competition. The important part of this is that over 500 of these people came to the Island from other communities in both Northern and southern Ontario, to fish and to spend money on food, lodging, marinas, fuel and gear.

That is why, nearly three years ago, when then-reporter Robin Burridge returned to the Expositor Office from covering a meeting about culinary tourism and mentioned to editor Alicia McCutcheon her observation that a shared topic among the restauranteurs there had been the need for maps to give away to tourists, that Ms. McCutcheon declared, “then we’ll give them a map!” The result was the creation of the padded tear-away maps that The Expositor commissioned, created and has distributed free each of the past two years: 30,000 maps per year.

That’s what our busy offices in Little Current and Gore Bay do. Manitoulin is a wonderful place to live, but we also want to see business success and the jobs and security that follow, and so we do as much as we can to help this happen.

Our staff works very hard at producing quality newspapers and you, gentle readers, respond by continuing to support this endeavour, as does our advertising clientele whose stories we also tell in terms of what’s available where and the good jobs that are on offer.

But there are many more people in the community who make this possible.

We have already alluded to Petra wall and her excellent column Now and Then. Thank you, Petra.

A proper newspaper needs a recipe column and Rose Diebolt, since the day she called nearly 20 years ago and said, “The Expositor needs a recipe column!” has provided that service with tested recipes, seasonally appropriate. Thanks, Rose. You and John enjoy your winter off.

Debbie Robinson, Assiginack librarian and Claire Cline, Central Manitoulin librarian, faithfully provide timely reviews of books they feel are important to read. Thank you, Claire and Debbie, for your diligent research and good writing.

We can always count on community news from Manitoulin’s south shore, courtesy of Pat Hall (Tehkummah Talk and Times) from Tehkummah and Ingrid Blay and Cheryl Sheppard who boost Providence Bay through Providence Bay News and Notes.

Farming is Manitoulin’s charter industry, and so a valued part of the paper is devoted to Manitoulin’s Agricultural Development Officer Brian Bell’s weekly notes and tips to farmers in Farm Facts and Furrows.

Island historian and author Shelley J. Pearen lives in Ottawa but is very mindful of her Manitoulin Island roots. She often contributes thoughtful and well-researched articles dealing with particular aspects of this big Island’s history, often in the context of the two cultures that make Manitoulin so unique.

Dr. Janice Mitchell, a veterinarian with Island Animal Hospital and Little Current Veterinary Services, pens The Expositor’s Paws for Thought column, which provides timely insights and suggestions on best pet practices for the Manitoulin pet parent. Thank you, Dr. Mitchell, for helping us take good care of our furry friends.

Dr. Joe Shorthouse is our go-to bug and plant guy, is a retired Laurentian University professor with a compendious knowledge of what makes up the Island’s ecology and who has recently taken on the task of representing Manitoulin on the Great Lakes Islands Alliance.

Rachael Orford, who is just in Grade 9, hopped right into the Manitoulin Secondary School news column Kids in the Halls, taking over from Cassandra Kuntsi who, before leaving for university, had penned the column for three years. Thanks for taking this on, Rachael. There’s a career ahead of you!

The ever-popular feature Player’s Profile is authored by Mackenzie Cortes, herself an athlete of note. Good stuff, Mackenzie. People enjoy those profiles.

Two columns on the left side of Page 7 are occupied week after week by Ice Chips and Canoe Quips where Andre Leblanc fits in the athletic accomplishments of young people, and also some not-so-young Manitoulin people. That’s quite a network of contacts you have, Andre. Thank you for this very important feature.

As always, our thanks and appreciation to the individuals from Manitoulin Island’s three police forces (Constable Marie Ford from the OPP, Police Chief Terry McCaffrey from the Wikwemikong Tribal Police and Constable Murray Still from the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service) who provide information to the paper on policing matters, very important to our readers.

And where would we be without the help of our freelancers who help us cover the myriad events that take place on Manitoulin each and every week? Thank you for the work you do, Betty Bardswich in Mindemoya, Giselle Aiabens in Wiikwemkoong,  Sharon Jackson and Lori Thompson in Kagawong.

We would also like to acknowledge the staff of the Manitoulin post offices and the rural contractors with Canada Post who get the papers delivered to the readers. You are an important part of the newspaper cycle, week after week.

Thank you, each and every one of you. We wish our readers and business and advertising partners a safe and happy Christmas season and, in 2019, nothing but good health and good will.

Sincerely,

Alicia, Rick and Julia McCutcheon

Kerrene Tilson

Marilyn Harasym

Dave Patterson

Robin Burridge

Michael Erskine

Warren Schlote

Debbie Bailey

Kendra Edwards

Rosemary Debassige

Kate Thompson

Jake McColman

Darren Bailey 

And from the Western Manitoulin Office,

Tom Sasvari

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