Marking his target

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Deputy Grand Chief Rodney Mark reflects on his first steps:


RODNEYIt’s been over six months that Rodney Mark has held the position of Deputy Grand Chief but he still feels a buzz of excitement going to work each day.

“I am having a lot of fun so far,” said Mark, who at the time of this interview was on his way to a flying lesson for a private pilot’s license. Mark is frequently on the road, an unavoidable aspect of his new job.

Since taking over as Deputy last summer, Mark has adopted three specific files as areas of focus – mining, justice and protected lands.

Having worked intensively with Goldcorp during his time as Chief of Wemindji, taking on the mining file for the GCC/CRA was a natural transition. He now is dealing with mining development in Oujé-Bougoumou, where they have the Blackrock project, Stornoway Diamonds near Mistissini, lithium mining in Nemaska as well as other projects frequently being pitched to both the governments and the Cree.

“The priority should be to get all of the communities to work together to help one another and to maximize training for the Cree workforce. Some of these projects are still in pre-feasibility stages and are not operational yet. So right now we need to focus on getting as many Crees trained as possible over the next few years,” said Mark.

Mark sees tremendous employment potential for Cree communities because of these projects. Over time, these jobs will transform lives by funding home purchases, sustaining local economies and keeping the best and brightest in Eeyou Istchee.

On the justice file, Mark looks forward to working with CRA Justice Director Donald Nicholls and his team. In the future, he wants to tour Eeyou Istchee in order to meet the justice committees in each of the communities. The purpose of the tour is to get feedback from each committee to make justice programs work for the Crees.

Mark said he feels passionate about the justice file because he sees it as a means of helping the Cree people and in the end, help families. It is an excellent mechanism for program delivery when it comes to changing lives.

“By the time you hit the justice department, something has obviously happened in your life, whether you’re a victim or a perpetrator. I think that everybody deserves a second chance and this is a way to facilitate that,” said Mark.

Mark said he was also excited to have been given the protected lands file. As a Chief of Wemidji, Mark was able to obtain a biodiversity reserve for his community and now as Deputy Grand Chief, he would like to champion the Dawich Marine protected land file. This would be in the vicinity of Eastmain and Wemindji’s waters or in Waskaganish’s waters.

“I would like to meet with the hunters and the trappers to see how they feel about possibly having protected land in that area,” said Mark.

Mark feels that this particular area is special to him as it was a hunting area in the springtime when he was a youth, out in the bay. And, why his community had at one point talked about creating a seaport there, Mark said that it had become an area that he wished to preserve.

Years later when he was elected Chief of Wemindji, Mark said that during consultations with the land users, numerous tallymen expressed a desire to preserve that area. This may be a future goal to pursue if it wins local support.

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