WIIKWEMKOONG—The province of Ontario has announced funding of $260,000 is being provided to the Wikwemikong Development Commission (WDC) to help offset pressures caused by COVID-19, to ensure the delivery of important community and economic development programs and support the growth of Indigenous tourism in the community.
“For decades, the WDC has delivered invaluable training and business programs that have empowered the Wiikwemkoong community,” said Lisa MacLeod, minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries, in making the announcement via Zoom on March 22. “That’s why this operating funding is so important; it will provide the short-term stability needed to offset the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and help ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of local Indigenous tourism industries.”
Minister MacLeod told the gathering at the announcement (actually held at Killarney Mountain Lodge), “Because of Kevin (Eshkawkogan, Indigenous Tourism Ontario president and CEO) and Luke Wassegijig (Wiikwemkoong Tourism manager) I was able to have an incredible visit to Manitoulin Island last summer. It was a life-changing trip, one that included a tour of Wiikwemkoong, Rainbow Ridge Golf Course where I was honoured to meet the Chief (Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier), had a wonderful meal (at Rainbow Ridge Golf Course), visited Mishibinijima Art Gallery, the Wiikwemkoong Tourism Gift Shop, the Bebamikawe Memorial Trail Head, the Jesuit Mission (Holy Cross) ruins and the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre). The most powerful part of the tour was of the ruins (Holy Cross). This is the type of stuff that other people in Ontario and beyond need to see.”
“Thank you minister for being here today. We are pleased to have you on Manitoulin Island, and Killarney, today,” said Mr. Wassegijig. “Our community has certainly seen the challenges of COVID-19. However, with the support of the ministry, we hope to get back to 2019 levels of growth capacity.” He noted that he was hopeful that Wiikwemkoong will be hosting its 60th Cultural Festival this summer and the funding will be helping with helping other tourism businesses and initiatives.
“As a leader in Indigenous tourism experiences in Ontario, Wiikwemkoong Tourism has been working with our partners to build a foundation for sustainable tourism development in Manitoulin Island and Killarney,” said Mr. Wassegijig. “The Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory is grateful for the contribution from the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and the advocacy from Minister MacLeod to support Indigenous tourism.”
“This grant will assist our organization in reaching our goals to build capacity, strengthen product development and enhance our experiences to enable us to return to pre-pandemic growth level and ultimately build back a better and stronger Indigenous tourism sector,” said Mr. Wassegijig.