“We are basically a North American Fjord,” Steve Wohleber told me on a bright day in Ontario. We were chatting over the phone, as travel is hard right now, and he had just finished telling me about how his town, Britt, located on the Byng Inlet of Georgia Bay, is an unincorporated Township.
“We aren’t a large community,” Steve went on, “and we’re very friendly with our neighbours even as spread out as they are. We all enjoy being a part of our special community and people that move here love it.”
Britt is part of the Unorganized Centre Parry Sound District, which itself is made up of townships that are not incorporated as municipalities and have no governing bodies. Steve has been a long-time volunteer serving on official Boards in Britt that serve the community for most needs normally filled by a traditional government.
I was learning all about Britt and the surrounding area, as the Britt Area Nursing Station announced it had received donations totaling $7,500; $1,500 from Henvey Inlet First Nation and $6,000 from Henvey Inlet Wind facility, Pattern Canada and Nigig Power Corporation.
You might be wondering why, and it goes to the area’s past, and its very bright future.
“We don’t have a ‘normal’ government,” Steve said. “This is the type of place you have to want to live, things are spread apart. But-” and he paused here, “it’s also one of the last places of untouched wilderness in this area of Ontario.”
There are four Boards that look after various responsibilities in the area of some 400 households, each of which has elected officials: The Roads Board, Local Services Board, the Nursing Station we were discussing, and a Senior’s Committee.
Other organizations help keep things running, like the Britt Lions club maintaining the helicopter landing pad, and the Britt Legion branch 591 which hosts most local events. Also the Britt Recreation Committee with its recreation centre, rink and ball field and it’s annual Winter Carnival.
“We all help each other out here, it’s the only way to get things done. When one organisation has a little extra, they’ll contribute to another that might be short. For instance, maybe the Recreation Committee or Legion have a little extra money, and then they’ll purchase equipment the Nursing Station needs.”
I pressed Steve on the wilderness. “Well, it’s a funny thing,” he said, “we never used to be thought of as a tourist destination. This was an industrial area, but by 1960 most of the industry had closed down, the government stopped the sale of Crown Land, and there was cleanup. Now the water and land are clean and there is minimal private ownership along the shoreline and islands on the Bay.
People enjoy fishing, kayaking, snow machines, cross-country skiing and more.
“It’s been great to have people interested, we’ve adapted with the times, and we are proud of our diversity.”
We went on to talk about the future, and I admitted I’d love to hike the forest and kayak the inlet.
“I think you’d enjoy it here,” Steve told me. “This is a working-class community, and we aren’t fancy or rich, but we love our home, and love to see people that feel the same. Come on out, we’d be glad to have you.”