AUNDECK OMNI KANING—Building relationships and having confidence in the people and the projects/programs that the province is funding is very important to Neil Lumsden, minister of tourism, culture and sport, who announced funding for Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO), last week.
“Relationships are huge to me, when I trust people and trust what they are doing and planning it is very important to me,” Minister Lumsden told The Expositor. “I like the way Kevin (Eshkawkogan, ITO president and CEO) thinks, as well as everyone in ITO. There is a certain amount of pride that goes into it for me. I feel confident and assured that the funding being provided is going to be used very well. And Kevin shared the ITO strategic plan and the direction they are going.”
The Ontario government is providing $300,000 to ITO through the Pan-Regional Fund to create jobs and support unique and authentic Indigenous experiences across the province.
This investment also supports a wide range of projects that unite communities, including cultural authenticity workshops, product development and itineraries, marketing and workforce development.
“By supporting ITO, our government is helping to provide meaningful opportunities for Indigenous communities through the province to showcase their deep-rooted diverse culture,” said Minister Lumsden. “This funding will support Indigenous arts, culture and tradition, while bringing people together, boosting the local economy and allowing visitors to celebrate our province’s broad cultural landscape through a wide variety of unique and inclusive programming.”
Minister Lumsden explained the funding is part of a $1.65 million investment the government has provided to ITO since 2018 to create jobs and encourage more visits to Indigenous tourism operators and the businesses in their communities.
“It is great to be able to make grant announcements like this,” said Minister Lumsden. “In a lot of cases announcements are made and then everyone leaves. But here it was great to hear ITO’s plan and where the funding is going.”
“By supporting ITO, our government is helping to provide meaningful opportunities for Indigenous communities throughout the province to showcase their deep-rooted, diverse cultures,” said Minister Lumsden. “This funding will support Indigenous arts, culture and tradition, while bringing people together, boosting the local economy and allowing visitors to celebrate our provinces broad cultural landscape through a wide variety of unique and inclusive programming.”
The projects that will receive support include cultural authenticity workshops, product development and itineraries, marketing, and workforce development.
“ITO is extremely thankful for the fantastic contributions provided by the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport,” said Mr. Eshkawkogan. “We couldn’t continue our work to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous people through tourism without support like this.”
Aundeck Omni Kaning Chief Patsy Corbiere was on hand for the funding announcement and said, “we have been advocating for ITO for a long time and what they are doing. Kevin is very professional and knows tourism, and part of the plans ITO has is to provide for stronger tourism awareness in our communities, that brings people in and also benefits our businesses, not just here but throughout Ontario.”
“There is definitely awareness here,” said Minister Lumsden. “My wife knows how important these type of things are to me. It’s been a great experience visiting the Island; you have so much right here in your backyard.”
Mr. Eshkawkogan told The Expositor, “the ITO strategic plan works on four pillars: developing operational sustainability and brand integrity, building capacity and increasing economic opportunities, marketing and branding authentic products and service and providing support for communities and entrepreneurs.”
Minister Lumsden had been at Killarney on the evening before the visit to ITO which was preceded by a tour of Wiiikwemkoong trails, Holy Cross Mission ruins, lunch at Rainbow Ridge Golf Course, and much more and a tour of the Ojibway Cultural Foundation in M’Chigeeng. Monday evening the minister stayed at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre.
ITO is Ontario’s only dedicated Indigenous tourism organization that focuses on uniting communities, Indigenous organizations and industry leaders to support the growth of Indigenous tourism in Ontario.
The Pan-Regional Fund is designed to support project-based initiatives related to tourism and destination development that benefit more than one region.