Taking Control of our Destiny: First Nations Leading the Way 6

| Highlights of First Nations Leading the Way 6

First Nations Leading the Way 6 saw record-breaking attendance and an impressive line-up of presenters. We had more than 350 registrants from First Nations participating in the FMA, Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, and/or those that have submitted an expression of interest in the 10-Year Grant program.

The goal of the annual gathering is to showcase First Nations at the forefront of expanding jurisdiction and highlight their achievements using First Nation-led agreements and legislation. FNLTW heard stories about greater fiscal independence, improved financial management, debenture financing, and sound land governance.

The following are just some of the many highlights of FNLTW6:

| Updates from host institution leaders

Chief Robert Louie, First Nations Lands Advisory Board (LAB) chairman, reported that the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA) has been repealed and replaced with the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management Act (FAFNLMA) to correct inconsistencies and provide clear and concise ratifying legislation. LAB received initial approval of its proposal for reforming the Additions to Reserve (ATR) policy as the current process is far too slow, and is looking to develop a First Nations land registry that focuses on the needs of our communities.

President and CEO Ernie Daniels, shared that the First Nations Finance Authority (FNFA) is providing First Nations with access to the same capital market opportunities that are available to other levels of government and issued its 10th debenture in 10 years. He noted that the cost of insurance is skyrocketing and the FNFA is looking to set up a model where we have our own insurance organization to pool the purchasing power of our individual communities, thereby increasing our buying power autonomy.

C.T. Manny Jules, Chief Commissioner, First Nations Tax Commission (FNTC) addressed the need for tax collection: “Every other level of government collects taxes. If we don’t begin to collect taxes in our communities, then all of those revenues will go to some other level of government and we will be dependent on them to give us second-hand taxes and programs, and those programs will never be enough to take care of ourselves, ever.”

Harold Calla, Executive Chair of First Nations Financial Management Board (FMB) noted recent data showing First Nation governments improving community wellbeing and financial health while working with the FMA institutions. He highlighted that the FMA amendments in June expanded the role of FMB to work with modern treaty nations, self-governments, and non-profits. When it comes to emerging Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) standards for Canadian companies, he said the FMB is working to ensure that these reporting standards include First Nations factors.

While Allan Claxton, Development Board Chair, First Nations Infrastructure Institute (FNII), was unable to be with us, a short video introduced attendees to this newest FMA institution, noting that FNII “is about building a strong foundation on which First Nations can create and maintain healthy and sustainable communities. It’s about creating better communities for Indigenous peoples to live, work, play and connect with culture. A partnership with FNII signals to the market that a project is shovel ready. This means the due diligence has been done and the project meets best practice standards.”

| Sessions

| FMB Deputy Chief Executive Officer Scott Munro and FNFA Strategy and Partnerships Advisor Jody Anderson spoke about proposed initiatives from their institutions.

Scott noted that gaps in access to capital are holding First Nations back in economic development. Among other solutions, the FMB proposes an Indigenous Development Bank, which could provide high-value loans for First Nation governments, general business loans, capital injection loans to the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) and its network of Indigenous Financial Institutions, as well as economic development infrastructure loans.

Jody said the FNFA is looking at an Indigenous-led and owned insurance model where we have control to create our own path, with the help of partners and subject-matter experts. “We will be putting that money back into our communities and our communities and members can decide how to spend that money.”

| Representatives of several First Nations spoke about their journey working with the FMA institutions and LAB, outlining their successes and lessons learned along the way.

Those from Squamish Nation talked about their success using fiscal tools through the First Nations Tax Commission. Khelsilem, chair of Squamish Nation, delivered powerful remarks about their path and learnings, including: “I leave you with this message, that all the work we are doing is how we can be good ancestors for future generations and how they can carry on the things we are doing today, and to recognize our consent is so valuable and our work to assert our jurisdiction means so much to the rest of the country and world.”

| Jason Calla, Technical Advisor at the First Nations Infrastructure Institute (FNII), moderated a session on taking control of First Nations infrastructure.

Panelist Rose Paul, CEO of Bayside Development Corporation at Paq’tnkek Mi’kmak Nation in Nova Scotia highlighted her Nation’s recent development projects – including Bayside Travel Centre, made possible by a new Trans-Canada Highway off-ramp – as well as upcoming initiatives. A business centre will be built next to the Travel Centre. “When we got FNII to help us with planning we were able to negotiate multi-million-dollar financing,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t realize how organized your communities are until you start working with the available tools. We couldn’t have done this on our own. Being able to utilize all the FMA tools made the difference. Next week we will be utilizing our tax law for the first time. Use the tools to take control back for your Nation.”

| Guest Speakers

| The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, spoke about the importance of truth-telling in the relationship between First Nations and the federal government, and her commitment to supporting Indigenous-led solutions: “The work that you are doing on economic self-determination is probably the most important work that is happening across the country… It is not easy work; the levers and controls of government are extremely resistant to change… My job is to push all of my colleagues, to make sure the tools are there to do all the hard work… The government doesn’t have the answers, how to move forward on healing, economic equity, building communities in remote settings; that is Indigenous Peoples’ expertise, but the government has the tools to support that hard work, to invest in communities that are doing heavy lifting, to help Indigenous communities meet those challenges”.

| Delivering a keynote address on the first day of FNLTW, Dennis Meeches, President of Tribal Councils Investment Group of Manitoba/ CEO Indigeno Travel, said: “The opportunity for us is going to be really good in the coming years, there’s a lot of investment opportunity. We can’t work in isolation of one another, we have to drop the colonial thinking that has been ingrained in our people since the signing of the treaties, the colonial narrative, and I have seen that happen time and time again.”

| Professor Peter Yu of the First Nations Portfolio at the Australian National University delivered an inspiring keynote address. He noted that Australia has never had a coherent national approach to support Indigenous wellbeing, despite the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples in Australian law. “We know as Indigenous Peoples that our quest for self-determination will not be realized if we continue to be impoverished by the colonizers,” he said. “We value our emerging partnership with First Nation leadership and organizations in Canada; you have inspired us in developing a framework for reconciliation; we trust that we will have mutual benefits.”

| Representing Ontario’s provincial government, Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Northern Development, said: “The work that you are doing at this conference and in this organization is being closely watched by the Government of Ontario. We are turning our full attention to Indigenous business as majority partners and an integral part of Ontario’s energy transformation and our economy.”

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