Aboriginal business leaders are meeting in Winnipeg this week at the Cando Annual Business Conference.
Natural Resources figures prominently in this year’s event, which routinely attracts band managers, government reps and people connected with various industries.
Yesterday delegates heard from the chief of the Waswanipi First Nation in Ontario.
Chief Paul Gull says development is very important to his community but they are always trying to find the right balance good business and sustainable practices.
He says they were forced to kick out a few forestry companies that were interfering with local trappers.
Still he says, they tried to keep things on a professional level:
“One trap-line had four companies. We had to get rid of them and say – ‘only one company’s going to be working.’ We had to re-organize the whole territory in consultation with the Quebec government and the forestry companies.”
Gull says it can be a tough juggling act at times but they are moving ahead.
Meantime the economic development think-tank that’s hosting the conference, Cando, informed delegates that a study is underway across Canada to see how First Nations can work more closely with nearby municipalities and other partners.
It is working with communities like the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and The Pas to pinpoint issues of mutual concern and projects they can team up on.
Helen Patterson is one of the people working on the initiative.
She says First Nations and their non-aboriginal partners need to realize there is more to be gained by sharing resources and man-power than by working apart.
She says in one instance a First Nation is trying to develop a major commercial real estate development but the nearby municipality is worried about the potential implications.
She says that is the wrong approach:
“They’re working in isolation but are neighbours and see the possibility to get more out of this real estate development if they actually collaborate instead of compete.”
She says they have included one remote community in the study too.
It is a fly-in reserve that’s located in Northern Ontario, hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest municipality.
Patterson says they’re anxious to see how the two groups can help one another.
Meantime Mining Industry Human Resource Council told the conference Canada’s mining industry will need 145,000 new workers by 2023.
Melanie Sterk is a spokeswoman for the group.
She says the mining industry has the oldest workforce in Canada, and the (145,000) new workers will simply be needed to cover the growth that’s expected.
She adds mining is the largest private employer of aboriginal people in the country:
“So the first IBA (Impact Benefit Agreement) that was in effect and negotiated in Canada with the mineral and metals sector was the Strathcona agreement of ’74. So maybe one of the reasons why mining has the largest percentage of aboriginal people as a sector is because we’ve been working on this partnership agreement thing for almost 50 years now.”
She adds that between the Strathcona agreement and 2012 — 318 agreements of all types have been negotiated with aboriginal groups.
98 of those are Impact Benefit Agreements or IBA-like partnerships.