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New partnership signal economic development employment opportunities for eight Lake Huron Region First Nations

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A group of eight First Nations in the Lake Huron Region have partnered with Hydro One on two new transmission project developments in their shared territories between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury. – Photo by Dan Pine Healing Lodge

By Rick Garrick

MISSISSAUGA #8 FIRST NATION — A group of eight First Nations in the Lake Huron Region are looking forward to economic development and employment opportunities through a partnership with Hydro One on two transmission line projects between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury. The partnership includes the Anishinabek Nation member First Nations of Garden River, Thessalon, Mississauga #8, Serpent River, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, and Wahnapitae, as well as Batchewana and Sagamok Anishnawbek.

“We’re very happy that Hydro One approached us to submit as a partner in building these two transmission lines and it looks as if now that Hydro One has been chosen as the proponent of these lines with eight First Nations as partners,” says Mississauga #8 Chief Bob Chiblow, noting there will be a lot of opportunity for contractors and other citizens during the construction of the transmission lines. “We’re intending on them being contracted to do a lot of the groundwork, as well as opportunities being provided to our youth in the form of apprenticeships. And then when the line actually is active and there is power running through it, there will be money generated through the partnership coming back to the communities.”

Chiblow says they are committed to participating in Hydro One’s equity partnership model, which was launched in 2022 to provide First Nations with the opportunity to invest as equal partners in new large-scale transmission line projects, and in securing revenue sharing benefits that can support economic stability and improved well-being for years to come.

“We’re happy that they decided to come to us for support,” Chiblow says. “That’s the kind of things we’re looking for when we’re dealing with industry or any type of people doing any type of projects in our traditional territory.”

The Independent Electricity System Operator published a report in 2022 identifying the electricity needs to support anticipated growth in the Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury area.

“We, as collective First Nations, believe in advancing self-determination through economic development and building strong partnerships with industry,” says Garden River Chief Andy Rickard. “We are ready to continue to advance our collective partnership negotiations with Hydro One on behalf of our communities.”

Evan Belleau, energy advisor for Garden River, says the eight First Nations created an energy entity for the project called Nshwaasi Energy.

“Entering into the 50-50 partnership, we anticipate employment opportunities to be a part of the construction [and to be] directly involved with consultation with Hydro One as to how the project will look going forward,” Belleau says. “Being 50-50 partners affords great opportunities as far as capacity development in Garden River in particular but in the eight communities as well.”

The two proposed transmission lines include a 205-kilometre 500 kV transmission line from the Hanmer Transformer Station in Sudbury to the Mississagi Transformer Station west of Sudbury and a 75-kilometre 230 kV transmission line from the Mississagi Transformer Station to the Third Line Transformer Station in Sault Ste Marie.

“Atikameksheng Anishnawbek is extremely proud to work with our sister nations along the North Shore corridor on the two transmission lines that will cross our traditional territories,” says Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Gimaa Craig Nootchtai. “We are also committed to working with Hydro One as our partner in this endeavour and thank the organization for creating a strong relationship with us.”

Penny Favel, vice-president, Indigenous relations, sustainability and president and CEO, Hydro One Remote Communities Inc., says Hydro One is grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership on the two projects and to explore how they can learn from each other.

“Hydro One is committed to advancing meaningful action on economic reconciliation so that First Nations can lead and benefit from transmission lines in their territory for generations to come,” Favel says.

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Dokis member offers thoughts of economic reconciliation at Toronto conference

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Dokis First Nation member Karen Restoule was one of the presenters at the Indigenomics Bay Street conference held in Toronto.

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?”

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Noojmawing Sookatagaing Ontario Health Team a voice for citizens

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Rocky Bay Child and Family Services staff Amanda Esquega and Tricia Mishquart shared information about their organization during the Noojmawing Sookatagaing (Healing Working Together) Ontario Health Team’s Indigenous Service Providers Showcase and Leadership Session on Nov. 21 at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay.

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].”

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ABPA responds to the Liberal Government’s Announcement of a National Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program

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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.

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Media contact:

Jason Rasevych
President
Anishnawbe Business Professional Association
E-mail: jrasevych@gmail.com
Telephone: 807-357-5320

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