Summary: 2021 National Meeting

First Nations Economic Resilience: First Nations Leading the Way 3 – National Meeting Summary

First Nations across Canada are exercising their jurisdiction and striving to move beyond the Indian Act with First Nation-led initiatives that enhance the growth and sustainability of First Nations, ultimately supporting higher standards of community well-being.

Currently, 309 First Nations, from all regions in Canada, are participating in either the First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA) or the Framework Agreement on First Nations Lands Management (FAFNLM). Further, 85 have signed a 10-year Agreement under the 10-Year Grant allocations process in 2019/2020 and 26 entered an agreement in 2020-2021.

Building on the extremely successful First Nations Leading the Way national meetings in 2018 and 2019, the First Nations fiscal institutions and the Lands Advisory Board (LAB) hosted the “First Nations Economic Resilience: First Nations Leading the Way 3,” on February 17-18, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national meeting was held on a virtual platform.

The meeting brought together leadership from First Nations who are currently scheduled on the First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FMA), taxing under s.83 of the Indian Act, signatories to the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management (FA) or First Nations who have submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) for 10-Year Grants. The purpose of the meeting was to:

• Share institutional tools and support services;
• Learn about successes First Nations are experiencing as a result of working outside of the Indian Act;
• Unify a collective voice for First Nations led initiatives and innovations; and
• Set a clear path forward for building prosperous and vibrant First Nation communities.

The national meeting showcased First Nations at the forefront of expanding jurisdiction and highlighted their achievements in using First Nation-led agreements and legislation to improve their economies through greater fiscal independence, improved financial management, debenture financing, and sound land governance. It also provided an opportunity for First Nations to learn more about how the First Nation Institutions and the Lands Advisory Board can support and enhance innovations in First Nations fiscal relations with the Crown, including 10-Year Grants.

Highlights

The national meeting had more than 260 participants on day one and over 240 participants day two. The event featured presentations and panel discussions, short videos, a documentary film premiere and entertainment. The theme for Day 1 was: “First Nations Success Stories” and the theme for Day 2 was: “First Nations Economic Resilience in Action.”

The presenters included influential leaders of the host institutions C.T. Manny Jules (Chief Commissioner, First Nations Tax Commission), Harold Calla (Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board), Ernie Daniels (President & CEO, First Nations Finance Authority), and Robert Louie (Chairman, Lands Advisory Board) as well as Elder Eugene Louie (Tla’amin Nation), Chief Misel Joe (Miawpukek First Nation), Chief Evan Taypotat (Kahkewistahaw First Nation), Chief Derek Epp (Tzeachten First Nation), Chief Willy Sellars (Williams Lake First Nation) and Chief Billy Morin (Enoch Cree Nation).

Some other highlights of the conference include:

Welcoming remarks were provided by the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations, and Pam Damoff, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services. Minister Bennett pledged to continue to work in collaboration with the financial institutions on enhancements to the FNFMA, congratulated the LAB on the 25th anniversary of the Framework Agreement, and signalled a willingness to explore the potential creation of a new infrastructure institute under this regime. Parliamentary Secretary Damoff indicated that the government has committed more than $330 million in the Fall Economic Statement in response to loss of community revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (such as declines in business income, revenue sharing and taxes). She noted that more details regarding the fund are coming shortly and a call for applications will be launched in Spring 2021.

The First Nations Finance Authority (FNFA) “Leading the Economy” panel was hosted by Jody Anderson (FNFA), and included Chief Misel Joe (Miawpukek First Nation) and Vicky Blake (Temagami First Nation). The panel focused on the challenge of economic resiliency. Miawpukek and Temagami are both remote First Nations who have worked with the FNFA to finding their own solutions to economic resiliency beyond the limitations of the Indian Act. In the case of Temagami, Vicky Blake indicated that they have built a multiuse facility and elders complex, and in the case of Miawpukek, Chief Joe spoke about their path to becoming partners in the Clearwater Seafood transaction.

Shayla Point, (FMB) hosted the Financial Management Board (FMB) “Celebrating Success” panel, featuring Geordie Hungerford (FMB), Isabelle Wood (Conseil des Atikamekw de Wemotaci) and Chief Evan Taypotat (Kahkewistahaw First Nation). The panel focused on the value and benefits provided by the FMB including an overview of FMB services and capacity development tools and training on financial governance. Chief Taypotat described his nation’s experience with the First Nations Leading the Way National meetings and being inspired by other successful First Nations to achieve Financial Management Systems (FMS) certification and secure resources to build a state-of-the-art governance centre. Isabelle Wood spoke about Wemotaci efforts to develop a Financial Administration Law as an important foundation towards self-government and accessing a 10-year grant from Indigenous Services Canada, which allows greater flexibility and reduced reporting.

The First Nations Tax Commission (FNTC) “Building Vibrant Communities” panel was facilitated by Trenton Paul (FNTC), and featured Chief Derek Epp (Tzeachten First Nation), Justin Gottfriedson (Tk’emlúps First Nation), Jesse James and Deylya Daniels (FNTC). The panel showcased how two very successful First Nations communities used the FMA fiscal powers to support economic growth, achieve greater self-sufficiency and recover quicker, faster and stronger. The FNTC representatives provided an overview of the FNTC and First Nations property taxation. This was followed by Chief Epp who explained how his community used FMA fiscal tools to bring about greater resilience in the Tzeachten response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Justin Gottfriedson who described how Development Cost Charges helped build a water reservoir facility in the community.

Meko Nicholas (LABRC) hosted a First Nations Lands Advisory Board panel discussion on the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, with Chief Willy Sellers, (Williams Lake First Nation), Trevor Bernard and Cheryl Knockwood (Membertou First Nation). The panel focused on how the Framework agreement has helped First Nations exercise their inherent authority over their reserve lands, natural resources and environment, outside of the Indian Act. Chief Sellars described the enactment of their land code and the development of lands management laws, a financial administration law, and property tax and assessment laws. He explained that these efforts have significantly fueled economic development and allowed the nation to undertake substantial residential and commercial developments. Trevor and Cheryl explained the Membertou land code development, including land management training and very significant community engagement, which have resulted in the development of such tools as an environmental management plan. They also focused on future projects, including an enforcement pilot project.

The FMB also used the opportunity for a special premiere screening of the First Nations Financial Management Board’s Vision Quest documentary.

The host institution panel “Legislative Reform and Economic Opportunities” featured presentations by C.T. Manny Jules (FNTC), Harold Calla (FMB), Ernie Daniels (FNFA) and Robert Louie (LAB).

Manny Jules spoke about the innovative approach of the institutions and the need for more innovation moving forward. He explained the FNTC proposals for more fiscal powers related to fuel, alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and FNGST, which would support COVID-19 economic recovery. He also noted the recent support from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance for these proposals and expressed hope that they will be included in the upcoming federal budget.

Harold Calla spoke about opportunities, trends, barriers and FMB strategic priorities. The priorities include making FMS certification more desirable, be the centre of excellence for First Nations financial governance, prepare for monumental government and industry change driven by reconciliation and UNDRIP and build FMB to respond to the opportunities. He also presented the proposed FMA legislative amendments regarding expanded purposes (such as collecting, monitoring and publishing data, assessment and monitoring of FALs, and supporting the development and implementation of fiscal and economic proposals related to TRC and UNDRIP), and monitoring.

Ernie Daniels spoke about the Clearwater deal and the fact that together, First Nations were able to reduce the risk on such a large project. He spoke of the benefits of access to the capital markets, regulations under development and future FNFA initiatives, including a commercial paper program for interim financing, pooling purchasing power for cost effective insurance coverage, utilizing statistics for better planning and monetizing Government of Canada infrastructure dollars to “build back better.”

Robert Louie discussed the inherent right to govern our lands and set out the strategic priorities of the LAB, including FNLMA replacement, dealing with legacy land issues, climate change and emergency response, independent lands registry research, Law enforcement and Framework Agreement amendment #7 to deal with such issues as application to First Nation title lands, Species at Risk, environmental assessments, Additions to Reserve, limiting the restrictions of the Indian Act and wills and estates.

Jason Calla (FNII) hosted the First Nations Infrastructure Institute Panel, which included presentations by Allan Claxton (FNII) and Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Joe Miskokomon (FNII). The panel focused on closing the infrastructure gap, and looking at investments in infrastructure as a response to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Allan Claxton spoke about the importance of using a highest and best use analysis and bundling infrastructure projects. Deputy Grand Council Chief Miskokomon spoke about challenges created by the current government of Canada approach to planning and managing infrastructure projects and urged participants to also consider technological development in their infrastructure planning. Jason Calla spoke to the importance of thinking big, the benefits and supports offered by the institute, such as sharing best practices, supporting business case development and bringing together First Nations with different strengths in the infrastructure planning, procurement and delivery process.

A Specific Claims Panel was hosted by Stefan Matiation (Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs) and featured Chief Billy Morin (Enoch Cree Nation). Chief Morin spoke about the need for tools and support to guide First Nations during and following claims processes, including making decisions about per capita distributions, managing a sudden influx of money, and setting a long-term vision with the community. He noted that this is a nation-building exercise, and that FMB certification was critical to ensure the First Nation was prepared for a settlement.

The Education and Capacity Development Panel included Melanie Assiniwe, Director Capacity (FMB), Dr. Andre Le Dressay (Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics), Angie Derrickson (LABRC) and Don Morin (FNFA), and focused on capacity development for the First Nations based on their wants and needs, economic decolonization, virtual training and the LABRC knowledge repository, and support to achieve financial independence.

The host organizations shared a series of videos throughout the two-day program, available and participants enjoyed entertainment provided by Juno Award winner William Prince.

Graphic Recording – The conference also had a graphic artist present who created visually appealing illustrations during the presentations and panels that summarized the concepts and topics being discussed.

Highlight Video – click arrow to play.