The First Nations Major Projects Coalition seems to gaining steam after recent meetings in Prince George.
First Nations from other parts of Canada joined the First Nation-led business capacity organization for two days of meetings.
The agenda focused on the advancement of tools required to make informed economic and environmental decisions concerning the development of major projects with the aim of communities achieving ownership positions and influence over the management of environmental impacts. Discussions were also held on the importance of developing economic infrastructure as a means to provide the benefits necessary to address social infrastructure deficits within First Nation communities such as waste water and housing.
“Through the coalition, First Nations are taking charge of our own needs and developing the tools necessary to raise our business capacity to comparable levels held by government and industry,” said Sharleen Gale, coalition chair from the Fort Nelson First Nation, in a press release. “It is through this work that we can begin to harness a portion of the wealth being generated from our territories by becoming partners in projects and play a lead role in managing the environmental impacts to our territories.”
One of the attendees was Kodi Chrisjohn of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in Ontario.
“I travelled here today because I was encouraged to hear of the work of the coalition and wanted to see it for myself,” Chrisjohn said. “Our nations need vehicles across this country like the coalition so we can continue to work together to take control of our own affairs, strengthen our economies, and ensure we have adequate resources to address our own needs such as the infrastructure deficit on reserve.”
Coalition members were also joined by University of Saskatchewan professor and Senior Fellow with the MacDonald Laurier Institute Dr. Ken Coates who spoke at the meeting about the importance of First Nations working together to build the capacity necessary to enter the mainstream of Canada’s economy.
The 40 First Nations participating in the coalition have come together to explore economic options to facilitate an ownership interest in major projects as well as environmental options to enable First Nations influence and management of impacts caused by projects. Communities participating in the coalition retain their individual decision-making authority. The next meeting of the Coalition is scheduled for March 26-27 in Prince George.