Themes of First Nations-led Economic Growth and Collaboration Dominate Discussions
at ABPA’s October 6th Stronger Together: AGM & Forum
October 8, 2021 – Robinson-Superior Treaty and Fort William First Nation Territory, Thunder Bay, Ontario:
ABPA re-elects board members and discusses reconciliation and First Nations-led economic development with MPP Sol Mamakwa and First Nations business leaders.
Anishnawbe Business Professional Association for Northern Ontario re-elects board members up for renewal and sets course for continued advocacy for Anishnawbe Nations in Northern Ontario at Annual General Meeting. Forum discussions with MPP Sol Mamakwa and other First Nations business thought leaders centre around the need for First Nations-led infrastructure and economic development and the enabling conditions required to make this happen.
Following opening remarks by returning President and co-founder of ABPA, Jason Rasevych, and an opening blessing by Fort William First Nation Elder Victor Pelletier, forum events kicked off with an impassioned and frank discussion about the state of reconciliation with MPP Sol Mamakwa.
Highlights of Mr. Mamakwa’s conversation with moderators Rachael Paquette (ABPA Co-founder and Vice President and founder of Paquette & Associates Law) and Brian Davey (ABPA Director and Executive Director of the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund) included:
- The need for non-Indigenous leadership to demonstrate authentic commitment to understanding and mitigating the harmful legacy of colonialism after Prime Minister Trudeau’s scheduled family vacation on Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and the Ontario government’s refusal to recognize the day as a statutory holiday.
- The need for all First Nations people, and youth in particular, to understand the power inherent in their treaty rights, and to rise up together to use this power to advocate for essential basic infrastructure, like housing, and to assert their jurisdiction and nationhood, without fear of losing funding.
- First Nations-led economic development is essential to ensure sustainable development in the North.
- First Nations must work harder to find their commonalities to leverage strength in working together so as not to fall prey to the colonial tactic of ‘divide and conquer’.
- Ontario, unlike British Columbia, appears to be a very long way from implementing a provincial framework to ensure alignment with the principles of the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples despite Mr. Mamakwa’s attempt to introduce a private members bill to facilitate this in 2019.
Following the keynote leadership discussion, Martin Kaiser represented event Alpha Sponsor, Resolute Forest Products, to provide a short presentation on ways they are partnering with First Nations to support First Nations socio-economic development and sustainability in the forestry sector. Kaiser, Resolute’s Ontario Woodlands Services Manager, highlighted their 20-year partnership with Fort William First Nation related to its saw mill there, which he claimed is one of the busiest in North America. Other event sponsors included Business Development Bank of Canada, Valard Construction LLP, and Tamarack Mining Services.
During networking sessions, attendees Arpad Kaltenecker, Pamela Bunnin, John Mason, Bora and others shared their impressions of MPP Mamakwa’s words including the need for continued education for non-Indigenous people related to Canada’s colonial past and to look for models for more equitable partnerships that we can emulate going forward.
The second panel discussion on high speed internet as a game changer for First Nations in Northern Ontario highlighted the Rapid Lynx network which will be the first ultra-high speed fibre optic network in Northern Ontario that will be owned and operated by First Nations. Wayne Slipperjack, Rapid Lynx Manager in training and Sherry McCuller, Senior Broadband Consultant for Magellan Advisors LLC and current project lead for Rapid Lynx Phase 1 infrastructure build, discussed the challenges of constructing this network in the north and what they are doing to support digital literacy skills development to ensure uptake once the network is complete in March, 2023. Entrepreneurs Lee Barter, COO of Tamarack Mining Services, and Kyle Pearce, Vice President Community Integration for Inspire Resources shared their innovative business models to provide examples of how high speed connectivity can enable community-led economic development related to mining. ABPA Secretary and Treasurer, Jason Thompson, moderated.
In the final panel discussion, Cherie Brant, Partner at Borden Ladner & Gervais, Geordie Hungerford, CEO of the First Nations Financial Management Board, and Tabatha Bull, President and CEO of Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, shared their experience and insights related to the enabling conditions required to ensure equitable partnerships. Brant spoke of the need for more focus on relationships outside of just the economic or business model of any project stating that “if the numbers break down, and there is no relationship there, then you have a very high-risk project.” Hungerford emphasized the need for governments to develop pathways to capacity building for First Nation players as well as the critical role that securities regulators can play to ensure material
Indigenous issues are part of ESG considerations. Bull talked about building more time into projects to ensure First Nations participants can actively participate, distinguishing between equitable versus
equal opportunities, and she also emphasized the need for new recruitment approaches for Indigenous board governance and executive positions that better assess capacity and ability versus formal credentials. All three panelists discussed full prior and informed consent and the implementation of UNDRIP principles, however, Brant pointed out that FPIC merely sets a minimum standard and that ultimately, if industry players are proactive in partnering there is no reason why we can’t forge effective and equitable partnerships from which Indigenous and all Canadians can benefit.
ABPA Statement on cowessess First nation discovery
June 25, 2021 – Robinson-Superior Treaty and Fort William First Nation Territory, Thunder Bay, Ontario:
First Nations people knew that the Kamloops residential school discovery was only the beginning. So too did the perpetrators, yet they remained silent. Each new discovery of children’s remains on residential schoolgrounds across Canada is a searing reminder of government sanctioned harm, including death, of First Nations children and their ties to family and culture. In the past, this harm was ignored, denied, minimized, and dismissed by the Canadian government, justice system, and by many Canadians even in the wake of abundant testimony by former residential school students and their families about cruelty towards children and the disappearance of children. With the latest discovery of 751 unmarked graves at Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan, the truth of Canada’s appalling past and its continuing impact on our present is being realized by a growing number of Canadians. Finally, we will be able to start bringing the lost children of residential schools home which is necessary and vital for our collective healing process.
The Anishnawbe Business Professional Association joins others in a call to action for perpetrators to be brought to justice for the systemically executed cruel separation of children from their families, cultures and languages, and the repeated failure to provide the necessities of life to those children who simply disappeared, never to return home again. Those responsible from the Churches, federal and provincial governments, and the RCMP, must answer to the rule of law. There must be formal, legal recognition of the harm to students, parents and successive generations of First Nations people impacted by government funded, and almost exclusively Church operated, residential schools. We cannot accept half-mast flags and empty apologies as a sufficient response to these crimes against humanity – crimes against innocent children. Before we can have reconciliation, we must have truth and justice, both of which are long overdue.
Our thoughts are with the Cowessess First Nation community and all those families and relations that have experienced indescribable loss due to the Marieval residential school and its legacy of harm.
Federal budget 2021-2022:
collaboration with first nations vital for northern ontario prosperity
April 23, 2021 – Robinson-Superior Treaty and Fort William First Nation Territory, Thunder Bay, Ontario: Following is a statement from Jason Rasevych, President of the Anishnawbe Business Professionals Association, regarding the Government of Canada’s 2021-22 Budget:
“The Federal Liberals 2021-2022 budget for Canada reflects a long-term investment approach aimed at fueling economic growth out of the pandemic through substantial investment in social infrastructure to strengthen foundations essential for a robust, resilient, and inclusive economy.
A virtual reality:
making the most of online communications
Join us on April 29th at 1PM (EDT) for an online discussion… about how to have better online discussions!
COVID has affected all businesses, and many of our Indigenous and remote organizations are switching to virtual communications to support their clients and customers in innovative ways. Join us for a short webinar discussing best practices for remote communication and engaging virtual events.
20 years of coastal first nations:
history, governance, and lessons learned
Join us on March 25th for the second webinar in a three-part series featuring speakers from Indigenous and environmental organizations as well as businesses to learn about Indigenous-led natural climate solutions in Canada. This session will explore how Coastal First Nations have created unique opportunities for conservation efforts through partnership and carbon offsets. Register today at https://abpa.live/coastal
The ABPA Our Fair Share: Helping Indigenous Business Access Covid-19 Relief Funds. May 6, 2020 @ 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. with special guest Brian Davey, executive director of NADF. To register click here:
The Anishnawbe Business Professional Association (ABPA) is a non-profit, member-based organization with an office in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The ABPA primarily serves the First Nation business community and develops and expresses positions on business issues and other public issues relevant to First Nation business, on behalf of its members.
We 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. We also serve non-First Nation businesses by providing information, guidance, and access to a wide-ranging network through events and sponsorship.
Request a Brochure
Congratulations Agoke development corp!
Agoke is the national winner of the Indigenous Business Award for Excellence for its work in the Ogoki Forest in Northwestern Ontario! Agoke is owned by Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls, and the award is provided by the Forest Products Association of Canada and Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.
Congratulations on this achievement! These acknowledgments raise us all as we see the effects of communities, partnership, and responsible stewardship bringing growth and success.