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

Ms. Hiroko Bekki-Moller

Hiroko has various International business experiences in her background. Annually, Hiroko liaises with the City of Gifu to plan, arrange and take part in the Ringing of the Peace Bell Ceremony. 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.

Ms. Ewa Gulbinowicz

Ewa Gulbinowicz is a volunteer citizen member for the City of Thunder Bay Sister Cities Advisory Committee since 2011. She is a graduate of the Bachelor of Business Administration at Lakehead University with additional Marketing and IT courses, and poses 2-year diploma from Confederation College in IT Management. She also earned 1 year diploma in business and human resources with international business aspect from Confederation College.

Ewa runs her own food manufacturing business over 3 years with same experience over 20 years. Her other knowledge includes business environment and non-for-profit organization, charity with fundraisings, re-organizing and lifting organizations to a stunning operations level by implementing strong knowledge and experience in business planning, project management, business management, business budgeting measuring and reporting with a very strong IT and Information System knowledge. Other past job experience includes working for Lakehead University in the IT department running library servers and thin clients and servicing IBM small contracts around Northern Ontario with banks and chain stores.

Mr. William Hryb

William Hryb, based in Thunder Bay Canada, is 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. William is a contributing writer to various publications such as Canadian Sailings/Transportation & Trade Logistics, Bayview, Thunder Bay Experience, Cruise Ship North America, On the Level and the Ukrainian Weekly. He is also the President of THUNDER BAY SHIPPING INC., an international shipping agency representing ship owners and charterers world-wide. Hryb just completed a 5-year tenure as the Commercial Navigation representative for Canada (PIAG) on the International Upper Great Lakes Study examining water level issues in the Upper Great Lakes.

Born in Oberlahnstein, Germany, he immigrated to Canada at an early age. Ukrainian by heritage, Hryb attended local schools studying Communication Arts, majoring in Broadcast Journalism. After completing his studies, he traveled extensively throughout South America as a freelance journalist. Hryb recently published Vanished: The Life and Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and 'Movers and Mavericks of Thunder Bay' an anthology of influential people that lived in the area. Later this year he will be publishing a book about the famous shipwreck 'Gunilda', a luxury yacht that sank 100 years ago in Rossport, on Lake Superior. In late 2015, Volume ll of 'Movers and Mavericks of Thunder Bay' is scheduled to be released.

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 he was the co-producer and co-host of Crime Beat, the popular weekly internet radio program on the ArtistFirst World Radio Network. In August of 2014 he launched his new radio show called Spectrum with Will Hryb on the same network. The show is broadcast live every second Wednesday of every month at 8:00 p.m. EST. All the shows are archived for 24/7 listening. For direct access to the broadcasts, go to

Mr. Andrew Garro (Vice-Chair)

Andrew Garro 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. Robert Eady

Robert Eady was born and raised in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) and is a lifelong resident of the area. 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.

He has worked at the City of Thunder Bay for over 25 years in a variety of positions, including Elections Planner in the Office of the City Clerk, Property Agent in the Realty Services Division, and most recently as a City Planner with the Development and Emergency Services Department. As a member of the Planning Services Division development team, Robert has been involved in numerous planning and development initiatives over the years throughout the City. He is a candidate member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. Robert has recently accepted a position with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Ministry of Housing with the Province as Planner for the District of Thunder Bay.

Robert has been on the Sister Cities Advisory Committee since 2013. 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, whom he loves to spend his time with. He enjoys volunteering as a member of the Knights of Columbus and for the Chaban Ukrainian Dance Group.

Mr. Matthew Villella

Matthew Villella is a 34-year-old lifelong resident of Thunder Bay. Matthew loves the City of Thunder Bay and is 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. Prior to this Matt was a proud St. Ignatius Falcon and represented them in football, wrestling and Track and Field.

For the past 13 years, Matt has been working at YES Employment Services as an Employment Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator. Also, because he likes to remain busy, for the past 6 years he has been a part time teacher in the Travel and Ecotourism Department at Confederation College in addition to a Supervised Access Worker at Children's Centre Thunder Bay.

Matthew believes in giving back to the community and has demonstrated this with his various volunteer and community development opportunities. He is currently President of Leadership Thunder Bay, Volunteer and Event Planner for Easter Seals Ontario Thunder Bay, and sits on the City of Thunder Bay's Sister Cities Advisory Committee and Crime Prevention Council.

Matthew was honored to receive the Citizens of Exceptional Achievement Award from the City of Thunder Bay in 2014 and was nominated for the Top 40 under 40 Shift awards. Matt is the VP of Education for the President Distinguished Nanabijou 2090 Toastmaster Club and current Area Director for Toastmasters.

Ms. Cindy Salo

Cindy Salo is a newly appointed member to the Sister Cities Advisory Committee in November, 2016, and is the Committees' liaison for Seinajoki, Finland. Cindy is the Owner/Manager of Bay Meats Butcher Shop.

Mr. Youlian Peng

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

Youlian 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.

Youlian 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.

This is Youlian Peng's second term with The Sister Cities Advisory Committee.

Ms. Josie Virdiramo

Josie Virdiramo was born in Slovenia which was formerly Yugoslavia. She and her family lived in Italy for two years before immigrating 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: St. Peter's, St. Jude's, Selkirk Collegiate and Vocational Institute and Lakehead University. She has a BA in Psychology with a minor in Political Science and Sociology, graduating in 2005 from Lakehead University with 1st class standing. She worked at Mckellar General Hospital for many years and later the Provincial Government: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing and finally retiring from the Service Ontario, Land Registry Office. 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 brother Walter Kocuba, sister Olga Jagodnik, nephew Neil Jagodnik, husband, Joe Virdiramo, Councillor for the City of Thunder Bay, daughter, Stacey with husband Buddy and a granddaughter Havanah. Josie enjoys working on renovations projects, furniture refinishing and most of all spending time with her beautiful granddaughter.


John Hannam, City Clerk, is the administrative contact for the Committee.

For more information about the Sister Cities Program, contact the Office of the City Clerk.

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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