At the heart of all Sister City programs is a twinning agreement, signed by the Mayors of each Sister City, confirming the commitment of each community to the program.


These exchanges promote:

  • cross-cultural understanding,
  • municipal and technical cooperation, and most importantly
  • economic development opportunities.

Sister Cities agree to send and receive delegations of various types, including political and business leaders, arts and cultural representatives, educators and technical experts.

Thunder Bay City Council has established a Twinning Relationship Policy and a Sister Cities Advisory Committee for the purpose of developing mutually beneficial economic and cultural interaction between communities. As economic development is the focus of Thunder Bay's program, municipal twinning provides an opportunity for both parties.

The City of Thunder Bay currently has five Sister Cities outside of Canada.

Our Sister Cities

The City of Thunder Bay has a number of Sister City arrangements with communities outside of Canada which include:

  • Duluth, Minnesota
  • Gifu City, Japan
  • Jiaozuo, China
  • Little Canada, Minnesota
  • Seinäjoki, Finland

The objectives of "Sister Cities" is to promote friendship, goodwill, education, economics and tourism between cities.

Duluth, Minnesota

In 1980, Thunder Bay linked with the port city of Duluth, population 85,000. Our common shipping heritage, cultural and geographical similarities, and close proximity made becoming Sister Cities natural. Thunder Bay and Duluth citizens regularly visit each other's communities for business or pleasure. A successful art exchange between the Tweed Museum of Art and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery was sponsored, in part, by the Sister City Committee.

Gifu, Japan

Our linkage with Gifu City, population 400,000, is a continuation of Thunder Bay's relationship with Yanaizu, Japan that began in 1998. Yanaizu merged into Gifu City in 2006. Gifu City has taken advantage of the surrounding natural resources to create both traditional industries including Mino washi and agriculture and tourism opportunities such as cormorant fishing. Gifu University for Education and Languages has been conducting annual student exchange programs with a focus on language and culture with Lakehead University in Thunder Bay since 1988. As well, high school students, citizens and dignitaries from both communities participate in regular exchanges.

Jiaozuo, China

In December 2015, a delegation from Thunder Bay and First Nation Communities visited Jiaozuo City, China, to further the intent of a sister cities agreement. On May 29, 2017, representatives from Jiaozuo City visited Thunder Bay. During this tour, a Sister City Agreement was signed. Located on the Yellow River and just south of the Taihang Mountain, Jiaozuo City has a population of 3,540,101 and is known as a centre for mining and education.

Watch the video documenting this cultural exchange in Jiaozuo:

Little Canada, Minnesota

In 1977, the City of Little Canada linked with Thunder Bay. Located north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the community was founded in 1844 by a French-Canadian farmer, voyageur and trader, Benjamin Gervais. The city hosts an annual celebration called Canadian Days with Thunder Bay. Little Canada has 10,000 residents who enjoy a picturesque rural landscape surrounded by metropolitan activity from the nearby Twin Cities.

Seinäjoki, Finland

In 1974, Thunder Bay linked with its first Sister City, Seinäjoki, population 30,000. Located in the Southern Ostrobothnia district of Finland, Seinäjoki is an important regional centre for the arts, commerce and transportation. Seinäjoki is recognized globally for the cultural and administrative buildings designed by Alvar Aalto, considered among the five foremost architects of the 20th century. A large number of people from Seinäjoki have relocated to Thunder Bay, making our city one of the largest Finnish communities (possibly the largest) outside Finland.

Sister Cities Advisory Committee

Thunder Bay's Sister Cities program is supported by a Committee of volunteers called the Sister Cities Advisory Committee, which serves the goals and objectives of the program. The Committee was formed in December 2006 with a mandate to develop, implement and coordinate the Thunder Bay Municipal Twinning Program. The Committee meets monthly and reports to City Council through the Office of the City Clerk. Members serve staggered terms to ensure an overlap of four-year terms and continuity of experience.

  • Committee's Terms of Reference  - COMING SOON

The Committee members represent several sectors of the community including municipal government, education, arts and culture, business and citizen volunteers.

Sister Cities Advisory Committee & bios

Mayor Bill Mauro


Councillor Cody Fraser

Cody was born, raised, and educated in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He is a former junior hockey player, proudly playing on four different teams across Ontario over a five-year period. Currently, Cody is completing his third year of law school at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law here in Thunder Bay. He also holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Indigenous Learning from Lakehead University. Upon graduating law school in spring of 2019, Cody will practice law locally while serving the residents of the Neebing Ward and Thunder Bay on City Council. 

Councillor Peng You

Peng has lived in Thunder Bay with his family for over twenty-five years and he calls the city his home now. Peng holds a Bachelor Degree and a Master Degree in Education, both from Beijing Normal University.

Peng has owned and operated two Chinese restaurants for twelve years before returning his professional career. He opened his own Peng You International Tai Chi Academy. He is also the funder and the president of The Peng You Taiji Quan Association. Through teaching the Chinese traditional martial arts - Tai Chi, Youlian promotes Tai Chi for Health, Friendship, and Happiness in and around the city.

Peng is also a tourism operator. He organizes travel groups to visit China and surrounding countries. He also works with local tourism and recreation sports operators to promote Thunder Bay. He has brought many Chinese visitors to the city in the past.

Mr. Matthew Villella (Chair)

Matthew is a 36-year-old lifelong resident of Thunder Bay. Matthew loves the City of Thunder Bay and is currently working hard to make this a better place to live. Matthew is a proud graduate of Lakehead University with his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education in 2005, and recently completed his Masters in Education at Lakehead University in 2018.

Matthew is currently a professor in the Tourism, Travel and Eco-Adventure Program at Confederation College.  Previously Matthew worked at YES Employment Services for over 14 years as an Employment Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator.

Matthew believes in giving back to the community and has demonstrated this with his various volunteer and community development opportunities over the years.  He is currently Immediate Past President of Leadership Thunder Bay, Volunteer and Event Planner for Easter Seals Ontario Thunder Bay, and is proud to sit on the City of Thunder Bay's Sister Cities Advisory Committee.  During his time on this committee, Matt has participated in welcoming delegations from our sister cities and has participated in a couple of visits to our sister cites. Matthew was part of the team that developed the now annual culinary exchange between Duluth and Thunder Bay.  Matthew is an advocate of strong relationships and works hard to promote Thunder Bay on any of his exchanges and works diligently to ensure Thunder Bay benefits from this program.

Matthew was honored to receive the Citizens of Exceptional Achievement Award from the City of Thunder Bay in 2014, and recently award the Community Champion Award in 2018 through the Northern Ontario Visionary Awards Top 20 under the age of 40. Matt is the VP of Education for the President Distinguished Nanabijou 2090 Toastmaster Club and current Immediate Past Division Director for Toastmasters and is now part of the Division officer training team. Matthew has been fortunate to do a few presentations at conferences, which have included Communication Amongst the Generations, Leadership and Building Strong Relationships.  Matt has also recently done a few webinars for Toastmasters in Thunder Bay and Minnesota. Matt’s love and passion for the City of Thunder Bay shines through and is happy to contribute anyway he can. 

Mr. Andrew Garro (Vice Chair)

Andrew was born and raised in Thunder Bay, ON. He is a graduate from Lakehead University with multiple degrees, including a Masters of Mathematical Sciences, a Bachelor of Education, as well as an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics/Social Sciences. Andrew has a proud record of academic achievement, and an ongoing commitment to learning.

At this point in time, Andrew holds multiple positions within the community. He is employed in the public sector, and also teaches evening classes at our local college. He dedicates an abundance of his time to volunteering. Andrew currently serves on three civic committees - the Sister Cities Advisory Committee (citizen representative), the Clean, Green, and Beautiful Advisory Committee (citizen representative), as well as the Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council (youth representative). He also holds numerous positions, including Chair, on many sub-committees.

Andrew firmly believes that a strong and vibrant community is one that has good jobs, stable employment, and an opportunity for professional growth and development. He is a self-described fiscal conservative, and keeps careful watch over tax payer dollars. When participating in Sister City events and exchanges, Andrew always ensures that the focus remains on economic development and investment in the local economy. 

Mr. Andrew Ault

Andrew is an MBA student in the Faculty of Business Administration at Lakehead University. In 2017, he graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and Policy Analysis with High Distinction from Carleton University in Ottawa. Additionally, he also holds a Certificate in International Law and Politics from Queen’s Bader Centre of Herstomonceux, UK, where he attended for a study term abroad. As an aspiring scholar, Andrew has research interests in empirical corporate coverage, healthcare finance and public opinion. At present, he is currently researching the impact of blockchain technology on the agency problem in finance. With a strong passion for research, he hopes to embark on both MSc and PhD degrees in Finance, to become a Professor.

A young entrepreneur, Andrew is Partner to an innovative marketing firm and works at Lakehead University as a Teaching Assistant.  In summers of his undergraduate degree, he also held positions with Northern Policy Institute, the Government of Ontario and in marketing departments of various local businesses and non-profits. For his entrepreneurial efforts, he was awarded Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 by the Sault Innovation Centre.

Throughout University, Andrew has been very active in student life, holding roles in Student Government, on various student societies and as a student representative for various University committees. Having attended school in Ottawa, he also volunteered in the offices of two Members of Parliament, and successfully competed internationally within the Model United Nations. Passionate about the City of Thunder Bay, he is now actively involved with Volunteer Thunder Bay, as Chair to the Lakehead Graduate Students’ Association, as serves on the Student Representative to the Lakehead Faculty of Business Graduate Studies Council and on the Sister Cities Advisory Committee. In addition, he also sits on various boards and non-profits located elsewhere in the north.

In his spare time, Andrew enjoys the Thunder Bay region’s unique culture and environment, such as skiing its pristine mountains, and taking in breathtaking scenery.

Ms. Hiroko Bekki-Moller

Hiroko has various International business experiences in her background. Hiroko was introduced on Bay View magazine:

Annually, Hiroko liaises with the City of Gifu to plan, arrange and take part in the Ringing of the Peace Bell Ceremony and ECE Teachers Exchange Program, and ECE Students Art Works Exchange.  She has connections to various communities in which she utilizes in order to contribute to events of the Sister Cities Advisory Committee for the City of Thunder Bay. Hiroko is also fluent in Japanese and is able to provide translation both in writing and in language. Her translation skills are appreciated and are utilized during delegation visits in order to better improve communications. Her knowledge of Japanese culture is also an integral part of her contributions to the community and to the Committee.

Mr. Robert Eady

Robert was born and raised in Thunder Bay and is a lifelong resident of the area.  Robert is an ambassador of Northwestern Ontario benefitting from the diverse lifestyle that Thunder Bay has to offer.  Robert enjoys activities from sports to theatre to outdoor adventure on the shores of Lake Superior.

He has an honours bachelor of science degree in Urban Geography from Lakehead University, and attended graduate school at the University of Manitoba where he earned his Master of City Planning (MCP) degree.  Robert also graduated from the Pathways to Leadership Development Program in 2010.

Robert worked at the City of Thunder Bay for over 25 years in a variety of positions, including Elections Planner, Property Agent, and as a City Planner with the Development and Emergency Services Department where he has been involved in numerous planning and development initiatives. Robert is now employed with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing with the Province as Planner for the District of Thunder Bay where he plays a lead role on matters related to Indigenous Consultation and Transportation.  Partnering with our surrounding communities to educate and support them, Robert is knowledgeable about our geographic footprint, culture and regional activities.

Robert has been on the Sister Cities Advisory Committee since 2013 and is one of the liaisons with our Sister City in Duluth.  He is very proud of his role with the Committee, and his goal is to help strengthen the valuable relationships with our Sister Cities.  He has formerly been involved with various City-led initiatives and committees, including the Thunder Bay Heritage Advisory Committee, Inspire Thunder Bay Culture Plan Strategic Implementation Team, and Thunder Bay Active Transportation Advisory Committee.

Robert and his partner Cathy are passionate about travelling, swimming, scuba diving and exploring the world. Robert has two precious daughters, Lauryn and Colleen, and two step children and two grandchildren. He enjoys volunteering as a member of the Knights of Columbus and on the Parent Involvement Committee where he participates in planning school activities and initiatives.

Mr. William Hryb

William based in Thunder Bay Canada, is the President of THUNDER BAY SHIPPING INC., a shipping agency he operates with his son David.  The company represents ship owners, ship operators and charterers world-wide.  He has been associated with the shipping industry in executive positions since 1975.  Hryb is also a freelance, print and broadcast journalist.  He is a member of the Professional Writers' Association of Canada (PWAC) and Superior Scribes, a professional Thunder Bay writer's guild.  The author of over 200 published articles, Hryb is a contributing writer to various national and regional magazine publications such as Canadian Sailings/Transportation & Trade Logistics, Marine Delivers, Bayview, Thunder Bay Experience, Cruise Ship North America, On the Level and The Ukrainian Weekly.

In 2007, Hryb was appointed by the (IJC) International Joint Commission as the Canadian representative for commercial navigation.  He served a five-year tenure as (PIAG) a 'Public Information Advisory Group' member on the International Upper Great Lakes Study, examining water level issues on the Upper Great Lakes ( Hryb is a also a long-time member of The Shipping Federation of Canada established by an act of parliament in 1903  who represents the owners, operators, charterers and agents of vessels engaged in Canada’s overseas trade.

Born in Oberlahnstein, Germany, Hryb immigrated to Canada at an early age. Ukrainian by descent, he attended local schools studying Communication Arts, majoring in Broadcast Journalism.  After completing his studies in the early 1970’s, he traveled throughout South America as a freelance journalist. In 2011 and 2013, Hryb published two books 'Movers and Mavericks of Thunder Bay', an anthology of influential people that lived in the area and 'Vanished: The Life and Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa'.   In his career, Hryb has interviewed numerous distinguished personalities, including The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker, 13th Prime Minister of Canada, Dr. Noam Chomsky, social activist and author of over 100 books, and Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

From January 2011 to March 2014 Hryb was co-producer and co-host of Crime Beat, the popular weekly internet radio program on the ArtistFirst World Radio Network. (   From 2014 to 2016  he produced and hosted 'Spectrum Radio'  on the same network.  Hryb has been a member of 'Sister Cities - Thunder Bay' since 2010 as a Duluth - Thunder Bay liaison.  He is married to Lee and has three adult children.

Mr. Stephen Margarit

Stephen is a new addition to the Sister Cities Advisory Committee, having been appointed as a Citizen Representative in 2018. Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Stephen is a proud Lakehead University alumnus, graduating in 2013 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. Prior to his post-secondary education, Stephen was an active member of the St. Patrick school community.

Upon his graduation from secondary school, Stephen completed a 1-year Rotary Youth Exchange in the town of Pfullingen in Southwestern Germany. During his experience, Stephen developed an appreciation and understanding of the culture and history of the area as well as learning the German language. Throughout his exchange, Stephen travelled across Europe and developed a passion for cooking, baking and hiking.

Stephen has worked at Bombardier Transportation as the Administration and Communications Coordinator for the past 3 years. Before his time in the private sector, Stephen diligently worked as a Constituency Assistant to MPP Michael Gravelle. His positions have given him the opportunity to develop an extensive network within our great city and region.

Community involvement is important to Stephen and he is a dedicated community leader volunteering with many organizations in Thunder Bay for many years. He has been a member of the Fort William Rotary Club since 2014 and will be President during the 2019-2020 term. He has also been a Director on the George Jeffrey Children’s Foundation Board since 2017. Stephen is an active member of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral parish community and he has served on the Parish Council since 2016. Stephen firmly believes in giving back and regularly volunteers at the RFDA and Shelter House. 

Ms. Carol Pollard

Carol, born and raised in Northwestern Ontario, has called Thunder Bay home since 2000.  Carol attended University of Western Ontario (Public Administration), and University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (Director Education Program).  Carol holds ICD.D, Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) and Certified Municipal Manager (CMMIII) designations.

As a seasoned professional accountant, Carol has a broad range of public and non-profit experience and extensive strategic and senior operational leadership as a Chief Financial Officer.  After a successful career in the public sector, she is now CFO for a mid sized private sector firm. 

In a volunteer capacity, Carol has worked with many non-profit organizations to make a difference. Her most extensive experience has been as a Friendly Visitor, with the United Way (various roles including Board Director, Campaign Team, Campaign Chair, and Allocations Committee), in addition to leading the Municipal Division Campaign for fifteen years.  She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Dew Drop Inn.  Carol also has international volunteer experience with Habitat for Humanity – Global Villages.  Carol is a newly appointed member to the Sister Cities Advisory Committee.

In her down time. Carol values family time with her four children and three grandchildren, and enjoys running, hiking, walking her dog, cooking, crocheting and travelling.

Ms. Josie Virdiramo

Josie was born in Slovenia formerly part of Yugoslavia. She and her family lived in Italy and then immigrated to Fort William, now Thunder Bay. As many new immigrants, she lived in the East End of the city and went to the local schools. She has a BA in Psychology with a minor in Political Science and Sociology, graduating from Lakehead University.  She worked at Mckellar General Hospital for many years as well as the Provincial government.   Josie has been on the Sister Cities Committee since March 2013. Josie previously worked on the Children's Wish Golf Tournament Committee for twelve consecutive years as well as many years for United Way. Josie has a husband Joseph, daughter Stacey and granddaughter Havanah. Josie works as a property manager and enjoys working on renovations projects, furniture refinishing and most of all spending time with her beautiful granddaughter.


Mrs. Nyomie Korcheski, Committee Coordinator - Office of the City Clerk is the administrative support for the Committee.

For more information about the Sister Cities Program, please contact the Office of the City Clerk at 625-2230.

Twinning Criteria & Policy

City Council will consider Twinning relationships when the following criteria can be met:

  1. Identified similarities and shared characteristics or interests between Thunder Bay and the candidate community
  2. Identified community interest in a relationship from citizens, business community and cultural groups in Thunder Bay identified potential cultural, educational and economic exchanges and interaction between Thunder Bay and the candidate community
  3. Other factors that may affect a decision to twin will include:
  • location and regional proximity of existing twinned communities
  • the number of twinning relationships in place
  • ability, within existing resources, to maintain the relationships with exchange visits at least once in every five years
  • participation in sponsored programs from agencies such as CIDA, CUSO, etc.

The Sister Cities Advisory Committee will evaluate requests to establish twinning relationships, and present its recommendations on the number and selection of sister cities to City Council through an Administrative Corporate Report.


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