Ontario professionals volunteer time, money to help remote Ontario First Nation

PIKANGIKUM FIRST NATION, ONT.—In the heart of Toronto’s financial district, the domain of lawyers, stockbrokers and investment bankers, Bob White is chairing a conference call.

The participants aren’t dialing in from New York or Hong Kong, but Pikangikum, a remote, fly-in First Nation community, 400 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

“It’s minus-14 here today,” Pikangikum’s school principal, Melanie Doyle, tells the room, her voice emanating from the ceiling in godlike fashion. “Some of kids are coming to school with just a hoody. We need coats, gloves, hats — just the basics.”

It’s hard to fathom she’s in the same province as this cosy, upscale office on the 41st floor of the TD Bank Tower, with expansive views over Lake Ontario.

This is a meeting of the Pikangikum Working Group, a gathering of Ontario professionals who give their own time and dime — even the meeting space is donated — to assist one of the province’s most impoverished First Nations, a settlement of about 2,800 people who live in 450 homes, most of which have no running water or indoor toilets. Everything in the working group is done in consultation with the community, based on needs and what the group thinks is achievable.

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