MANITOULIN – The Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) ventilator fundraising campaign that had been initially initiated by the M’Chigeeng First Nation toward the purchase of four new ventilators (two for each of the Manitoulin hospital sites in Mindemoya and Little Current) has received continued significant donations from local municipalities and First Nations.

Gore Bay and Billings councils both voted in favour of providing significant financial contributions to campaign at meetings held last week. 

“We received a letter from M’Chigeeng First Nation Chief Linda Debassige, with M’Chigeeng having spearheaded the campaign with a donation of $10,000,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne at a meeting last Thursday. “I need input from council on this request for funding.” He noted several First Nations and municipalities have supported the campaign with $10,000 each.

“Are the ventilators available to purchase when this fundraising campaign is done?” asked Councillor Paulie Nodecker. “I know car manufacturers have been retained to produce them, and a lot will be going to higher risk areas like Toronto. It would be fabulous to have more ventilators. I think it’s necessary.”

“In my view, we definitely should be providing a donation; it will ultimately benefit someone on the Island,” said Mayor Osborne, noting $10,000 is a lot of money. “The main thing is that (having the additional ventilators) will help to sustain a life.”

“The question is ‘do we give a donation and if so how, much should we donate’?”

“I think we should be donating funds; it will be benefitting someone in the community at some point,” said Councillor Nodecker.

Mayor Osborne proposed an amount of $5,000 for the town to donate and asked for more discussion from council on the issue. 

“I think this is all too quick,” stated Councillor Kevin Woestenenk. “Are the federal and provincial governments providing funding? And would we be throwing money in the sky if there are no ventilators to purchase? I’m not against helping out in the campaign but we really don’t have the money.”

“We have to consider the health crisis first, and then look at the economic issues. If it helps one person it will be worth it,” said Councillor Nodecker.

“Agreed,” stated Councillor Aaron Wright.

Councillor Patricia Bailey put forward a motion (that was seconded by councillor Nodecker) for the town to donate $5,000 toward the ventilator fundraising campaign, which was passed by council. 

At a Billings Township council meeting March 27, Mayor Ian Anderson told council, “the MHC only has two portable ventilators currently (one in each location). I know other First Nations and municipalities have donated to the campaign.”

“I think it is really important to participate in this campaign,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “I know things are tight financially, but I think it’s really important to contribute. God willing the ventilators won’t be needed. We need to participate.”

“I agree,” said Councillor Sharon Jackson. “This is very important not only for the COVID pandemic, but the potential for the ventilators to be used in the future on the Island as well.” 

Councillor Bryan Barker said, “I definitely support (the local ventilator campaign). It will be a benefit not only for township but the Island as a whole. It is a lot of money but it would certainly be going to a very good cause.”

Mayor Ian Anderson said, “I agree with all of you. It is a lot of money, but it would be money well spent.” 

Council passed a motion in favour of Billings providing a contribution of $10,000 to the ventilator fundraising campaign.

The fundraising campaign goal is to raise $80,000. As of press deadline, a total of $69,160 had been raised. Among others who have donated include M’Chigeeng First Nation, Central Manitoulin, Little Current Lions Club, Manitoulin Transport, the Douglas A. Smith Family Foundation, the B.J. Corbiere Memorial Hockey Tournament, Bousquet Realty and Sheshegwaning First Nation, along with donations having been pledged through the online donations page, CanadaHelps.org