SUDBURY—M’Chigeeng Ogimaa-kwe (chief) Linda Debassige has been appointed First Nations Trustee with Rainbow District School Board (RDSB). Trustee Debassige attended her first board meeting on Tuesday, April 23 where she represented the 11 First Nations communities who have educational service agreements with the RDSB.
“I would like to extend a warm welcome to Chief Debassige as she begins her new role as trustee for Rainbow District School Board,” said RDSB Chair Doreen Dewar. “We value our relationship with First Nations and look forward to working with Trustee Debassige for the benefit of all students in Rainbow Schools.”
“It’s a real honour to have been selected to represent the 11 First Nations as the First Nation trustee,” Trustee Debassige told The Expositor during the Manitoulin Secondary School powwow. “I always like to acknowledge Grace Fox for her significant contributions and advocating on behalf of First Nations. She’s left big shoes to fill through her hard work, dedication and experience. My hope is to continue to champion the work that has already been done, to improve the awareness of First Nations educational perspectives and to help grow the capacity of First Nation dialogues and share successes.”
His Honour Justice André L. Guay administered the Declaration of Office and Oath of Allegiance to Ogimaa-kwe Debassige on Thursday, April 18. The Oath of Allegiance was completed in both the English and Anishinabemowin languages.
“I do affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Creator and to our children; I will respect the laws of Canada and Ontario, including the recognition and affirmation of the aboriginal and treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Constitution and to the Anishinabek Laws, customs and traditions of the people I represent,” she said. Then continuing in Anishinaabemowin, “Ndazhi waawiindmaage nga debwe-wendaagwos miinwaa ezhi d’benmi-goowaanh maaba Debenjged miinwaa g’da-binoojiinhminaanig; nga mnaadendaanan Canada miinwaa Ontario, bi-dgosing miinwaa nsi-dwaamji-gaadeg miinwaa gwek-kwenj-gaadeg maanda Anishinaabeg gaazhi waawiindmawndwaa miinwaa giwe aanind bemaadsijig enwe-mingog ezhbiigaazjig Anishinaabe naaknigiwning, zhitwaawnan miinwaa gaabi-zhi bmaadsiwaad bemaadsijig bemiikwagig.”
“I am honoured to be appointed by the 11 First Nations as the First Nations Trustee,” said Trustee Debassige. “I look forward to strengthening the relationship between Rainbow District School Board and the First Nations for the benefit of our children. I have received a warm welcome from Chair Dewar and look forward to working with her and fellow trustees in inspiring success for all students by reaching minds and touching hearts.”
According to a release from the RDSB “Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige was born and raised in M’Chigeeng First Nation, where she grew up on the land and is active in the sustainability of Mother Earth. She graduated with honours from Confederation College’s Civil Engineering Technology program in Thunder Bay. She has one son, Pierre, who attends Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS).” Trustee Debassige completed her elementary school grades at the band’s Lakeview School before going on to attend MSS herself.
First elected to the M’Chigeeng First Nation’s band council in 2013, Ogimaa-kwe Debassige became the second female chief to lead M’Chigeeng First Nation in 2015. She is currently serving her second term.
During her tenure as a band councillor, Trustee Debassige held the portfolios of Audit and Governance, Community Safety and Land Code Steering Committee. She is currently a co-chair of the Anishinabek Nation Housing, Water and Infrastructure Committee, a co-chair of the Housing Infrastructure and Water Committee at the Chiefs of Ontario and a member of the Assembly of First Nations chiefs committee on Housing, Infrastructure and Water.
She has participated in numerous speaking engagements, university policy forums and media events and is also on the board of directors of the Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, Mnidoo Mnising Power General Partnership Inc., Ojibwe Cultural Foundation and is a trustee with the Robinson Huron Treaty.
Ogimaa Kwe Debassige is a past member of the Board of Directors for the UCCM Anishinabe Police Services, Great Spirit Circle Trail and Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre.
She enjoys hunting, fishing and sports. In her spare time, she also enjoys being out in the woods and spending time with family.
“I look forward to using the partnerships I have with other communities and to be able to help bring their voices to the table on behalf of children and students,” said Ogimaa-kwe Debassige. “Although I was elected by the 11 First Nations, I also represent First Nations students at all levels and at all schools in the board. I intend to advocate and represent them as well.”
“I received a very warm welcome,” she concluded. “I’m also looking forward to working with (Manitoulin trustee) Margaret Stringer. I believe we can work real well together.”