By Kelly Anne Smith
NORTH BAY — Ketegaunseebee (Garden River First Nation) has renewable energy in place to be a greener community and neighbouring communities are on board.
Speaking at Day 2 of the Anishinabek Nation’s Economic Development, Lands and Resources Forum on Feb. 15 in North Bay, Ont., Garden River First Nation’s Energy Advisor outlined energy initiatives, partnerships, and how the First Nation is working on greener energy in new builds while helping members to be energy savvy.
Kristy Sayers, of the Crane Clan from Garden River First Nation, says their work has built successful relationships, both provincially and federally.
Garden River First Nation is modernizing Ojibway Park with solar power. That renewable power and water will be available at the campsites of the resort. Solar technology is being installed on park buildings such as the shower house and the boardwalk gazebo, too. A feature of the park is the Ojibway Park Trans Canada Nature Trail featuring a two-kilometre trail that is wheelchair accessible and free access to everyone.
“The Trans Canada Trail stretches for nearly 27,000 kilometres throughout Canada and Garden River is proud to be part of that network. Tourism includes Silver Creek Golf Course with the Arthrr Hills 18-holes championship layout and it’s one of Northern Ontario’s largest courses. We also have the Garden River Bingo Hall.”
Sayers informs that through astute business practices, Garden River First Nation continues to attain new funding for opportunities for the entire community. The success has created jobs and furthered community development.
The Comprehensive Community Plan developed by members has been an integral part in the decision-making. The priority areas for economic development for Garden River include tourism, capital project development, energy initiatives, and project studies. They are all built on the foundation of community planning, says Sayers.
She says the hope is to build awareness and become further educated on the actual cost of energy, including the impact on the environment and economy with their energy strategy plan or Indigenous Community Energy Plan (ICEP) created by Garden River First Nation.
“The community has been involved in the ICEP plan every step of the way. For each new project, there is community engagement such as webinars and events hosted,” she explains. “Usually, there is a survey completed to give us back feedback.”
Sayers says the community embraced solar technology as early as 2010 with 11 rooftops collecting solar energy.
“All of our brand-new buildings have the solar. We see the energy that is being saved.”
Sayers mentioned she would love to see a solar farm, adding, “we have more opportunities for federal funding.”
“This year, Ojibway Park is starting the planning for installation of a ground mount solar system to help lower costs on all energy that’s created by the park.”
Garden River First Nation’s various energy initiatives are funded through the Indigenous Energy Projects of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which regulates Ontario’s electricity market.
Garden River First Nation plans to make a documentary on the installation of the Ojibway Park Solar Project. Once completed, a community celebration will be planned. Sayers says social media keeps the community engaged.
“Ever since COVID-19, we try to keep the community alert and aware of what was happening in the community. We started a Facebook page and we have an Instagram page. It was created to keep all the community members informed on local information and community engagements.”
Plans include having students from JK to Grade 3 receive energy education at the Garden River school.
“We have plans of doing little energy-related learning for the kids because we want our younger generation to learn moving forward.”
Sayers gave tips on energy savings programs, highlighting the Ontario Electricity Support Program, Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, Small Business Program, Energy Affordability Program, Home Winterproofing, and the Canada Greener Homes Grant.
The community’s energy challenges centre on funding larger projects, says Sayers.
“Most funders will cover about 80 per cent of costs but right now, timelines are being extended due to material shortage. Also, understanding energy in general. It’s understanding how we benefit as a community with energy.”
During her talk, Sayers played a video of Sault Ste. Marie Sustainability Coordinator Emily Cormier. The two women collaborate as part of a green energy partnership between Sault Ste. Marie and Garden River First Nation. They have worked together to educate the public on energy literacy and solar energy through webinars. Sayers is enthusiastic about the Sault’s willingness to participate.
“We have the same issues when it comes to contractors and any of those types of things when it comes to getting a project completed.”
Sayers says energy will continue to be measured as Garden River First Nation has been approved for the First Nation Community Retrofit Program.
“We are in the process of getting energy audited. They actually just came last week. We got to go around three buildings and we are going to get updated street lighting as well. That was something that was huge in our community that a lot of the members have asked for. It’s now going from HSP (high pressure sodium) bulbs to LED (light-emitting diode),” she explains. “I find everything goes hand-in-hand with energy, when it comes to new builds, buildings, anything building-related.”
Dokis member offers thoughts of economic reconciliation at Toronto conference
By Sam Laskaris
TORONTO – Karen Restoule believes it is time for change.
Restoule, a member of Dokis First Nation in Northern Ontario, shared her thoughts of what that change could look like at the Indigenomics Bay Street conference, which concluded on Nov. 23 in Toronto.
Restoule, a strategist and communications specialist who is a vice-president with Toronto’s Crestview Strategy, was one of the presenters at the conference held at the Westin Harbour Castle.
Her presentation was titled ‘The intersection between policy and Indigenous business’.
“Indigenous Nations are ready to drive off the Indian Act superhighway,” Restoule said during her presentation.
Restoule said policy alternatives have been developed in recent years and First Nations are able to opt into these laws, making the Indian Act no longer relevant.
These policies include the First Nations Land Management Act, the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, and the First Nations Good and Services Tax Act.
Restoule, however, believes it would be better to modernize all treaties, including ones that are considered “historic.”
“Currently in Canada, there are 25 modern self-governments or modern treaty agreements that include some 40 or so First Nations,” Restoule said. “And they are largely located in British Columbia, across the territories, and into northern part of Quebec. There are more than 630 First Nations across the country. That means that approximately 590 Nations remain under the Indian Act.”
Restoule believes it is time to consider renegotiating “historic treaties” like the other ones that have been modernized.
“Not only does this lead to equitable federal transfers, it gives way to agency and the right of ownership of land,” she said. “And most of all, it gives way to equitable opportunity.”
Restoule thinks the current system is broken, but she also believes what an improved system would look like needs to be sorted out before changes are made.
“In a society where so many are tearing down, we ought to consider what we can do, as citizens of this country, to build that off-ramp (on the Indian Act superhighway),” she said. “And while yes, the Indian Act does in fact need to go, it cannot be abolished in the absence of another solution.”
In large part because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Restoule said members of the Canadian public are familiar with some aspects of the Indian Act, established in 1876.
Restoule believes Canadians are better informed now on topics including the history of Indian Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop.
“But there are many points about the Indian Act that Canadians are less familiar with,” she said.
For example, she mentioned movement restriction, where First Nations people were not allowed to leave the boundaries of their reserve without the permission of an Indian agent stationed there. Business and trade restrictions were also implemented whereby both internal and external business dealings required approval from the Indian agent.
“There is a commonly held stereotype that Indigenous peoples have always lived in small secluded communities, never leaving their patch of land for anything,” Restoule said. “This couldn’t be further from fact. Prior to Indigenous-European contact, Indigenous peoples throughout these lands had expansive and established trade networks that gave way to the movement of goods and the people who moved them.”
Restoule concluded her presentation by issuing a challenge to attendees.
“What are each of you prepared to do to build that off-ramp towards a better Canada for everyone?”
Noojmawing Sookatagaing Ontario Health Team a voice for citizens
By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY — An Indigenous Service Providers Showcase and Leadership Session was hosted by the Noojmawing Sookatagaing (Healing Working Together) Ontario Health Team (OHT) on Nov. 21 at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay. Noojmawing Sookatagaing OHT, which supports a continuum of care with providers in the City and District of Thunder Bay, was officially launched in October 2022 as part of the fourth cohort of Ontario Health Teams.
“The Leadership [Session] was to bring service providers within the health and social services systems together to network and collaborate and to build trusting relationships and partnerships,” says Natalie Paavola, co-chair at Noojmawing Sookatagaing OHT, director of health and wellness at Dilico Anishinabek Family Care and Namaygoosisagagun citizen. “The reaction, I’m happy to say, has been quite positive. Everybody has been just pleased with the turnout and pleased with the feedback that we’ve been given and also sharing that they are quite happy and satisfied with the opportunity to network and collaborate with each other.”
Sandi Boucher, an Indigenous keynote speaker, author of Honorary Indian and other books and Seine River citizen, delivered a presentation on I Have a Dream during the Leadership Session.
“I’m a 10-year domestic abuse survivor — there’s a time I couldn’t have sat at a table and have a conversation with one of you, and look at what I do now,” Boucher says. “I am living proof our past does not have to be our present or our future, and it has nothing to do with how someone else looks at us, it’s how we look at us, that’s what we’re focusing on today.”
Boucher says her mother used to demonstrate to her and her brother how no individual can see the whole picture by having them look around the living room while standing back-to-back.
“She pointed out to us that there was so much of the room that we could see but there was one part we were totally blind to, my brother couldn’t see the part that was directly in front of me, I couldn’t see the part that was directly in front of him,” Boucher says. “This is why we need Indigenous voices on the OHT, because only if we come together and share what we see and actually believe each other can we start to see more of the room. And you’ve heard this in meetings, someone will say, ‘It doesn’t look like that to me.’ That’s not a challenge, that’s an opportunity to see something that’s in your blind spot.”
Paavola says the Showcase was an opportunity for Indigenous service providers and Indigenous-led services within the City and District of Thunder Bay to showcase their services.
“We know that removing barriers through awareness works,” Paavola says. “When you are aware of the services that are available, you are better able to help and support community.”
Amanda Esquega, traditional care manager at Rocky Bay Child and Family Services, says the Showcase was “really informative.”
“We did a lot of networking with other [Indigenous] agencies to kind of see what is out there for our families,” Esquega says, noting that they provide an array of prevention programs. “We’ve been here (in Thunder Bay) since 2019, our satellite office is here and our main office is in Rocky Bay. We always mirror our programming, our services there and here, whatever we do.”
Tricia Mishquart, child and family services manager at Rocky Bay Child and Family Services, says they are also a voice for their citizens in both the community and Thunder Bay.
“We all know as Indigenous peoples how hard it is to reach out for additional services and supports,” Mishquart says. “That is why we are very unique in what we do for our [citizens].”
ABPA responds to the Liberal Government’s Announcement of a National Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program
ROBINSON-SUPERIOR TREATY AND FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION TERRITORY, THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO (November 22, 2023) – This week, the Liberal government announced the next steps for a long-awaited National Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program in the next year’s federal budget. However, Indigenous leaders are still waiting for details on how the program will work and whether the program would help communities invest in the natural resource sector and facilitate equity ownership in energy, mining, forestry, and other infrastructure projects.
Following is a statement from Jason Rasevych, President of the Anishnawbe Business Professionals Association, regarding the Government of Canada’s Economic Statement and commitment to National Loan Guarantee Program for Indigenous peoples:
“Indigenous leaders have been calling on this type of program for decades. We have seen some examples in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, but there are some limitations on what type of project can be supported including the amount and timeline. The lessons learned from the successes and challenges of the current state and forecasting the market demand should be part the new program design and seek compliance with Indigenous-led values and the principles of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. The announcement of a national Indigenous loan guarantee is a positive commitment that protects lenders from potential defaults and derisks the weighted average cost of capital; however, much more needs to be considered on how it prioritizes applications by geography, industry, and deals with jurisdictional dissonance across the provinces permitting regimes. We need to make sure that the human rights risks inflated by financial programs that create a larger gap between the classes of have and have not Nations are minimized and not motivated by a government – political agendas. We need the loan guarantee program to enhance and support Indigenous communities looking to participate in various sectors at different financial thresholds of resource development and ownership of enabling infrastructure like corridors and facility ownership. These projects should be assessed to consider respect for the rights-holders throughout the financing and project lifecycle, and that the proponent has achieved the free, prior, informed consent of Indigenous peoples impacted as a condition for approval. If the mandate and decision to provide the loan guarantees is supporting government or partisan plans it will create more friction for Crown-Indigenous relations, especially on how those loan guarantee decisions are being made. Indigenous communities will also need grant funding to develop the business case and economic model for the loan guarantee applications and there should be a mechanism to consider backing Indigenous-owned or operated lenders and financial institutions for a multiplier effect.”
In the past, there has been budget allocations to realize Canada’s role as a key global supplier of critical minerals for manufacturing electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, and other low-carbon technologies, which suggests dependence on intensive mineral extraction. Given Northern Ontario’s forest and mineral abundance, the region has an integral role to play in achieving these aspirations. Resource developers and governments will need to demonstrate understanding of the necessary and pivotal role that First Nations play within this paradigm given their unique rights and land title.
While the announcement could be promising as a path to reconciliation and economic growth through its support of developing strong partnerships with First Nations, success will only be realized through effective roll out and accountability. The federal government will need to demonstrate a well-executed and collaborative approach with First Nations. ABPA stands ready as an advocate for the First Nations business community and will be watching and eager to play a role in ensuring the above outlined programs meet the demands of the North.
The current ABPA Board of Directors include:
• Jason Rasevych, President, Ginoogaming First Nation
• Rachael Paquette, Vice-President, Mishkeegogamang First Nation
• Ron Marano, Vice-President, North Caribou Lake First Nation
• Jason Thompson, Secretary/Treasurer, Red Rock Indian Band
• Brian Davey, Director, Moose Cree First Nation
• Steven McCoy, Director, Garden River First Nation
• Tony Marinaro, Director, Naicatchewenin First Nation
About the ABPA:
The Anishnawbe Business Professional Association (www.anishnawbebusiness.com) is a nonprofit, member-based organization based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. ABPA serves the First Nation business community within the Treaty #3, Treaty#5, Treaty #9 and Robinson Huron and Superior Treaty Areas. The ABPA develops and expresses positions on business issues and other public issues relevant to First Nation business, on behalf of its members. They provide a forum for the First Nation business community to develop policies and programming which contribute to the socio-economic well-being and quality of life of First Nations peoples in Northern Ontario. They also serve non-First Nation businesses by providing information, guidance, and access to a wide-ranging network through events and sponsorship.
Anishnawbe Business Professional Association
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