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Building Kanesatake up one brick at a time

(COURTESY BAYSIDE)

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As Gail (Scotty) Nelson and her husband Larry Daye were getting on in age, they wanted to have something of their own. They slowly transformed their woodshop, where they had been working since 1995, making furniture and cabinets.

They converted their paint room and office area into a store and on August 18, 2016, the project became a reality when Bayside Convenience opened its doors.

But the couple had an even bigger vision.

“We wanted a store that had a variety of items such as Native crafts from locals and t-shirts, moccasins, essentials, and now, fuel,” said Nelson.

In the fall of that year, they contacted the Kanesatake Economic and Business Development team, hoping to get help with their project idea. On July 4, four years later, Bayside Convenience’s expansion project broke ground.

The plans are to add a gas station, and later on, a no-contact car wash.

“It’s the groundwork to encourage others to pursue other activities, other than cannabis or cigarettes,” said Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Serge Otis Simon, “To show that people can make money in various ways. It encourages the youth when they see that there are opportunities available despite some of the social setbacks we might have.”

Nelson felt like they had the council’s support from the very beginning. Still, the project was a little slow to start due to a lack of staff. It was the implementation of a new Kanesatake Economic and Business Development team in 2019 that finally helped carry out Bayside’s vision.

As one of the past grand chiefs of her own Mi’kmaq community of Gespeg, Manon Jeannotte had previous experience developing successful projects. But the new Business Strategy and Development director for Kanesatake believes it was important for her to understand the community’s needs rather than imposing her own ideas.

“When I arrived in February 2019, I said that I’m not the one deciding what we are going to do,” she said. “I do have a vision, but each community is different and I needed guidelines from the council. We did engagement workshops with community members during those three months, trying to understand what would be the Mohawk economic vision. It’s still a work in progress. And what the council is saying cannot be different than what the community is thinking,” she said.

Jeannotte is joined by Tracey Bonspiel, Nadia Robertson and Pat Gelinas. It has received more than 10 different economic development project requests since its creation.

“Our self-governance must include being responsible for our self-economical development,” said Jeannotte. “People don’t necessarily want to leave the community to find work. It takes jobs within the territory, or nearby. Therefore, there’s nothing better than encouraging people to become autonomous. This is for the survival of the community.”

Despite the fact that Jeannotte is an outsider, which she said can be tricky to deal with, Nelson was quick to thank her, along with the rest of the economic team, for shaking and moving things along.

“These ladies immediately helped in every way possible,” said Nelson. “This is the vision of the department, to help people create their own jobs,” said Jeannotte.

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