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Merasty leaving English River’s economic development arm PDF Print E-mail
Written by mbcnews   
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 13:20

Gary Merasty. Photo courtesy of desnedhe.com

A former northern Saskatchewan Member of Parliament is stepping down as CEO of the English River First Nation's economic development entity.

Gary Merasty has been the president and CEO of Des Nedhe Development for the past four years. Former Cameco executive Sean Willy is taking over both roles.

Merasty will continue to serve as a special advisor to the CEO through the transition. He is being credited with initiating an independent board governance model to improve English River's business practices.

"We are grateful to Gary for his vision and for bringing strong, stable management to Des Nedhe," said Chief Lawrence (Labada) McIntyre in a release. "He put our businesses on the right path and prepared Des Nedhe for the future."

Merasty says now is the time to leave.

"My goal was to strengthen Des Nedhe's foundation," said Merasty in a release. "I know we have the governance model, business structure and people in place for long-term success for English River."

Willy has most recently been Des Nedhe's vice president, having joined the company in July of last year. He has 20 years of experience in the mining industry with Cameco and Rio Tinto.

Willy is also a co-chair of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, chair of Northern Career Quest and serves on the board of the Global Indigenous Trust.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 13:29
Prosecution seeks jail time for Big River First Nation fine options fraudster PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chelsea Laskowski   
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 16:50

Sylvia Joseph (right) speaks with her lawyer after court. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

Prosecution is seeking jail time for a woman who helped offenders on Big River First Nation trick the system.

Earlier this year, Sylvia Joseph entered eight guilty pleas for performing fraud -- this related to charges that she took money in exchange for signing off on unperformed community service hours while she worked with the Fine Options Program, which is run through the band. The 49-year-old woman initially faced more than 100 charges of forgery, defrauding the government, falsifying books and documents, and using a forged document after the RCMP started investigating a complaint against Joseph in mid-2013.

While Joseph was set to be sentenced at Big River First Nation (also known as Whitefish) court on Tuesday, she arrived more than three hours late due to what court heard was a doctor’s appointment in Saskatoon. This appointment comes in advance of a serious surgery Joseph will be undergoing in September.

Regardless of the rationale for Joseph’s delay, Judge Harradence expressed frustration with delaying sentencing until October.

“I’m a little bit disappointed we haven’t dealt with this today,” Harradence said, adding that the nature of Joseph’s crimes make it important she arrives on time so that anyone interested in the case can be present. On Tuesday, only court workers and MBC were still present by the time Joseph arrived.

“I need to complete this job and the public needs to see me completing this job,” he told Joseph.

He said the Crown is asking for a jail sentence of three to nine months, and “jail is something I’ve got to consider.”

Outside court, Joseph’s lawyer said she will be seeking a non-custodial sentence.

Prosecutor Cindy Alexander told MBC “the Crown is anxious to have this sentencing concluded” and said it’s “unfortunate” there were delays on Tuesday.

“The offences are serious in part because the community put its trust in this accused and she held a position of trust in the community,” Alexander said.

Harradence has put up strict conditions that Joseph show up on time for her October sentencing, saying the only way she cannot be present is if she has a doctor’s letter sent to court.

The agreed statements facts of the case have yet to be read out in court, and sentencing arguments are also on hold until the matter returns to court on Oct. 12.

Members of the community say the fine options program was unavailable for a period of time after Joseph was suspended during the July 2013 investigation, meaning people had no option but to pay any fines they had incurred.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 16:59
La Ronge town council passes bylaw outlining where homeless shelters can be created PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chelsea Laskowski   
Monday, 14 August 2017 14:13

A zoning map of a region of La Ronge. Courtesy laronge.ca

It just got easier to provide shelter for the homeless in La Ronge.

Just last week, town council decided on a commercial zoning region as the spot where homeless shelters can be set up. The town previously had no zoning for what are called "temporary shelters,” which proved to be an obstacle when the Scattered Site Outreach was seeking funding to buy a permanent building earlier this year.

Councillor Jordan McPhail said they heard public feedback and concerns about the prospect of shelters going up in the general commercial region, which includes La Ronge Avenue near downtown, and council was split on the vote.

“It definitely wasn’t unanimous. We did have some people that were for and against it, as most motions do go. And I don’t think it was the idea of not having a homeless shelter in the community, just where the location of that would be,” he said.

The discretionary nature of the bylaw means proposed shelter sites will need to go through another phase of consultation before being approved.

“Council makes a decision as to whether or not we will allow it on that lot. So that will go to another public hearing and people will have the opportunity to voice their concerns,” McPhail said.

McPhail voted in favour of the bylaw at the Aug. 9 council meeting where the motion was passed, and was acting as the meeting chair and deputy mayor at the time. Mayor Ron Woytowich had declared a conflict and recused himself from the debate and votes throughout this bylaw approval process because he has been working with Scattered Sites.

McPhail said statistics from late last year show homeless numbers rose in the region around the same time services like a hot meal program, community garden and other “social development” programs started being offered in La Ronge.

He said it is common for people to move to communities where the services they need are being offered.

“I think that’s what created a bit of the controversy within this bylaw is that if we do create a homeless shelter, will it make the homeless population in La Ronge grow,” McPhail said.

Staff turnover at town office during the bylaw drafting phase dragged the process out for nine months, McPhail said, but with the third reading now complete all that’s left is for the province to approve the bylaw.

Applications for funding are currently in the works for a permanent Scattered Sites Outreach shelter building, but a specific site has not yet been applied for with the town's zoning. The Scattered Site building on La Ronge Ave. offered 15 beds for homeless people at its building last winter (averaging around 12 people staying each night between Nov. and March), but officially there had not been any regions in town zoned for temporary shelter until now.

Last Updated on Monday, 14 August 2017 14:58
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