Background: Why the CGRF was formed
The CGRF was conceived back in 2008, in part to provide research support to a newly emerging corporate entity, the Rat Portage Common Ground Conservation Organization (RPCGCO).
The RPCGCO is a corporation that since 2008 has held the 450 acres of land that formerly was owned by Abitibi, the company that operated the former Kenora paper mill. The land includes about 350 acres on Tunnel Island, Old Fort Island, and some other adjacent small islands in the Winnipeg River. The corporation is unique in that it is made up equally of representatives from Anishinaabe and settler communities, including Grand Council Treaty #3, the City of Kenora, and the three First Nations that together constitute the Rat Portage #38 Band: Obashkaandagaang First Nation, Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining Ojibwe Nation and Wauzhushk Onigum Nation, whose traditional areas overlap around this spot. These same entities also had representatives on the Executive Committee of the CGRF to ensure an easy exchange of information and guidance from the corporate partners to the research project.
The RPCGCO’s governance structure, with its equal partnership among settler and Indigenous signatories, echoes the spirit and intent behind our treaty: that as people who share a place, we have an obligation to share in the governance and management of all resources, for the mutual benefit of all our people. Though we have different cultural traditions and different ways of doing things, we respect and honor our mutual systems. We are in this together, as equals.
Though vast parts of Canada are covered by Treaties, the “Common Ground” partnership represented one of the first examples of actually enacting the spirit and intent of a treaty in modern times. As such, it raised interesting questions about how to actually do this in practice, such as: How can Treaty peoples work together to achieve common goals, while still respecting each other’s culturally distinct processes?
The Common Ground Research Forum was formed with the intention of providing the capacity to try to answer some of these theoretical and practical questions and achieve these goals:
- What triggers and shapes cross-cultural collaboration and social learning?
- How does collaborative land use planning contribute to social learning, and how does that learning support sustainable local and regional economies?
- Increase awareness of sustainable social and economic benefits of cross-cultural collaboration and the Common Ground initiative.
- Enhance capacity for cross-cultural collaboration, social learning and planning for sustainability.
The research partners devised a governance structure with a consensus-based Executive Committee responsible for administrative duties, approving and overseeing research projects, and granting community funding awards.
The Executive Committee included representatives from each of the RPCGCO’s constituent communities, from other organizations in the community who were collaborators in community research projects, and from students and research associates. This governance structure allowed input from all partners, and community members were able to both propose projects of interest – either for student research or to be undertaken themselves – and to vet student and other academic research proposals. Students were required to partner with community members and groups to ensure reciprocity, respect and utility in research design, study methods, and communication of results.
The Executive Committee held quarterly business meetings where they would review current projects, approve new projects, and set goals and directions for the next quarter’s activities. There were two working subcommittees that met as required. The approvals and process subcommittee, which received new project proposals from community members, provided a first review, and requested changes if necessary, before passing the proposal on to the Executive level for approval or rejection, as appropriate. The communications subcommittee was responsible for overseeing communications and enacting the CGRF communications plan. The communications subcommittee was responsible for producing quarterly newsletters, the website, press releases, public meetings, and events for students and researchers to share the results of their work.