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Province continues funding for BCAFN economic development strategy

Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Terry Teegee, Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, announce economic development funding for the AFN. Bill Phillips photo
Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Terry Teegee, Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, announce economic development funding for the AFN. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

It’s called the Black Book.

It will be hitting desks in Indigenous communities this summer. It is a blueprint for Indigenous communities on how to develop and improve economic development strategies and operations.

Development of the Black Books, and other economic Indigenous economic development strategies, received a boost Tuesday when the province extended a program that has been running since 2016 with a further $2.24 million in funding to the B.C. Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN).

“Your work is vital to the well-being of this province and helping First Nations achieve economic stability,” said said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, who announced the funding in Prince George. “For the past three years (the Assembly of First Nations) strategy has been the roadmap for B.C. businesses, providing them with the tools and the information they need grow.”

In addition to developing the Black Books, the BCAFN has, with the B.C. Business Council, created the Champions Table, which is a group of chiefs and business executives who meet to discuss issues surrounding economic development. The assembly has also created the Indigenous Internship Leadership program. The BCAFN also hosts a province-wide First Nations Economic Development Forum that brings together First Nations, industry and government to discuss opportunities and wealth creation in B.C.

As it moves forward, the BCAFN strategy will include economic reconciliation and governance efforts that will support economic development among First Nations, including exploring ways to promote Indigenous efforts, through discussion papers, draft policies and regional forums. BCAFN will also look at creating an economic development secretariat to facilitate partnerships with First Nations and identify best practices.

“The purpose of the Black Book is to provide a guidebook for our many First Nations communities, to look at economic development and the many challenges they are facing, not only with industry but also the barriers created by the many levels of government,” said BCAFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee. “What we’re trying to do is erase those barriers and create a sustainable economy for our First Nations communities.”

The Black Books will be printed and distributed to First Nations next month.

“We applaud the B.C. government in their leadership to support reconciliation with First Nations in British Columbia,” said Teegee, who said they have a good relationship with the NDP government. “B.C. can grow the economy as a national and international leader in partnership with First Nations, as we explore innovation and clean growth in a way that respects First Nations rights for the benefit of all British Columbians.”

Also on hand for the announcement were Champions Table members Rick McLean, Chief of the Tahltan, and Wilf Adam, former Lake Babine Chief.

“Our experience with the Highway 37 transmission line, the Red Chris Mine, and the Alta Gas’ run-of-river projects really opened our eyes as to how we can work with business and industry to capitalize on opportunities,” said McLean. “It’s important for us to be part of the conversation early on.”

Adam was part of the Champions Table at its inception and he touts the effectiveness.

“All the meetings I’ve attended at the Champions Table are meetings about good business practices around the province and how can work together, help each other,” said Adam. “When we work together we have a better understanding of the economy. When we have a better understanding of the economy we will be part of the economy. Being part of the economy means there will be stability within the region.”

Funding in the 2019 agreement will be made in instalments of $1.12 million each in 2019-20 and 2020-21, supporting BCAFN in work begun in 2016 when the province committed $2.5 million over three years.

Work done as part of the Champions Table has also been supported by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, which in 2018 provided $420,000 over three years for 150 post-secondary graduates in the Indigenous Intern Leadership Program.

First Nations Business and Governance Forums

BCAFN hosted its two-day Business Forum in Lheidli T’enneh Territory in February 2019. More than 150 participants heard from a variety of panels on experiences and best practices. As well, keynote speakers included Alan Winter, B.C.’s innovation commissioner; and Gitxsan member Bill Lomax, vice-president of Goldman Sachs Investment Management Division. In 2019-21, the BCAFN will work with partners to organize four First Nations business and governance forums to showcase the latest information for First Nations on economic development and governance initiatives.

Develop discussion papers and draft policies

BCAFN will work with partners to prepare discussion papers regarding the linkages between governance and economic development, including identifying the legal and regulatory barriers that inhibit and/or support investment. First Nations have identified a gap in policies related to economic development, investment practices and business/financial operations. The BCAFN will work with First Nations in B.C. to create relevant economic development policies that support this need.

Engagement and Partnership Building with Government and Industry

BCAFN will seek to renew its relationship with the Business Council of BC (BCBC). Many positive outcomes have been created from this relationship, including the Champions Table (made up of 11 Chiefs and 11 CEOs), the Indigenous Internship Initiative and pilot projects with First Nations. The BCAFN will also include B.C. in some of the BCBC discussions to identify policies and approaches that are needed to improve opportunities for economic reconciliation with First Nations.

Black Books updates and implementation support in the regions

BCAFN has created a guide for First Nations interested in improving their economic development strategies and operations. First Nations have asked for technical and political support from BCAFN for specific projects and initiatives related to economic development. Black Books updates will include the latest best practices and information to support First Nations specific projects, highlighting provincial programs, services and initiatives.