On July 9, 2016 Lac Ste. Anne County achieved a significant milestone in regional fire services collaboration. At noon on this historic day, Mayor Bill Hegy and Chief Tony Alexis of Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation of Treaty 6 signed their first ever mutual aid agreement. A boon to County dwellers and First Nations residents alike, this landmark agreement stands as a model of how neighbouring regions can work together to better service and safeguard the community at large.
Collaboration and fraternity are encoded into the DNA of any fire department,” says Chief Randy Schroeder of the Lac Ste. Anne County Fire Services, “but intermunicipal collaboration can be tricky at the best of times. An additional layer of First Nation process and protocol – with which we were unfamiliar – added to the complexity of this particular agreement. However, thanks to the perseverance, cooperation and respect of both parties, we have achieved our goal. This represents a great opportunity for both of our communities to embark on a new and mutually beneficial relationship.”
The signing of the Mutual Aid Agreement was followed by a Pow Wow celebration and Grand Entrance, hosted by the Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation and attended by Mayor Hegy and Fire Chief Schroeder. “Our first ever Mutual Aid Agreement with the Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nations is an excellent asset and addition to the community,” commented Mayor Hegy. “We are now better equipped than ever before to distribute fire resources in a way that meets the service demands for a wider segment of the Lac Ste. Anne County region both today and years into the future.”
More than two years in the making, the County/First Nations agreement had stalled numerous times before being re-proposed on April 18, 2016. An appointment with Council was attended by County Fire Chief Schroeder, Deputy County Fire Chief Troy Dufort, and Community and Protective Services General Manager Trista Court. In this meeting, the specifics of the first ever Mutual Fire Aid agreement were laid out and explained.
With a draft agreement in hand – and with a better understanding of First Nations protocol, Lac Ste. Anne County Fire Services canvassed the First Nation with its bid for partnership. A peace blanket and three pouches of tobacco were also presented to Chief Tony Alexis as a customary token of respect. Three months later, the formal Mutual Aid Agreement was signed. “A great deal of thought, creativity and teamwork was incorporated into the design of this agreement over the past two years,” added Chief Schroeder. “We are very proud of the outstanding efforts made by our team and First Nations partners to ensure the successful negotiation of this historic agreement.”
Prior to the Mutual Aid Agreement, the County had a one-way fire services agreement with the Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation. This agreement had expired in December of 2014.