BIRCH ISLAND – The annual Lafarge fish fry has entered its 45th year and once again the past year has been without a single lost time accident—that’s 45 years in a row. This year the celebration is especially upbeat as the Lafarge terminal has just completed its environmental assessment, a prerequisite for the signing of a new lease with the Whitefish River First Nation.
The Lafarge-Whitefish River First Nation collaboration in the company’s Birch Island terminal and harbour has long been the poster child for positive corporate interactions between a First Nation community and a company, of which the fish fry is only one tangible manifestation.
Father George Gardner, former terminal manager and an honourary chief of the Whitefish River First Nation assisted in officiating at this year’s fish fry.
“This is history in the making, this 45th fish fry, but we have been involved for more like 48 years because it started a couple of years before with the construction of the silos,” said Fr. Gardner. “If we had gone another two years we are almost at 50 years, half a century of this relationship we have, it is almost unheard of to have a relationship like the one that Lafarge Canada has with Whitefish River First Nation. It is something we should be proud of, something to honour and something we should cherish.”
Fr. Gardner noted that the terminal silos have become a monument and that the terminal is “a gem, they are the cleanest terminal on the Great Lakes.”
He recalled that during all of his time in association with the terminal that there had always been someone who understood and honoured the special relationship that has been developed. “Well, except for one person and he is gone,” chuckled Fr. Gardner.
The former terminal manager recalled the special people who are no longer with us. “You all remember Archie and Violet McGregor,” he said. “They were my godparents.”
Lafarge director of distribution Tyler Kohut assisted in the handing out of this year’s safety awards to the terminal employees, members of the Whitefish River First Nation community.
“I really like to bring my family up to this event,” said Mr. Kohut. “This is a wonderful community event that really shows how communities come together. It has been a wonderful day, we have had great weather, some great food and great conversations.”
Following the awards ceremony, a large number of prizes were drawn to be distributed to those attending the fish fry, ranging from new bicycles, binoculars and fishing rods to bedding. Ogimaa Shining Turtle officiated over the distribution of prizes as each winner drew the next winner from the box of tickets.