By Andrew Autio
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
THE DAILY PRESS
The next step for the reconciliation of First Nations people is business ownership, including mines, according to Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation near Cochrane.
At Wednesday’s 71st-annual general meeting of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, Archibald was the keynote speaker, and was introduced via Zoom by Mark Selby, chairman and CEO of Canada Nickel Company, one of the region’s newest mining companies.
With the complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s AGM was streamed online, with participation coming from all across Ontario.
Selby provided viewers with a quick overview of what the emerging Canada Nickel Company is aiming for.
“We’re advancing rapidly, what we believe will be one of the world’s largest nickel cobalt projects, with a real opportunity to produce NetZero carbon nickel that the electric vehicle market is looking for,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working together with all of you to sustainably provide long-term benefits to all of the communities in the region.”
Selby then introduced Archibald.
“She is recognized as a calm, respectful, and heart-centred leader, with over 25 years of experience in First Nations politics.
RoseAnne has dedicated all of her adult life to serving and striving to create a better quality of life and future for First Nations people.”
Archibald began by speaking to the many challenges for First Nations businesses and their partners caused by the pandemic.
“We’ve had to adapt, and focus on preserving health and saving lives,” she said.
The overall theme of her address to the Timmins and area business community was how to build stronger relationships, and the role businesses can play, in the reconciliation with First Nations.
She said there have already been several frameworks created, notably Call 92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“Call 92 focuses on transforming the consultation process, and building respectful relationships between the corporate sector and First Nations by pursuing the principles, values, and strategies included in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
She said for the business community to build relationships with First Nations is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.
“The majority of First Nations are in favour of development.
Placing checks and balances on that development is necessary for a balanced approach where resources are developed, while also protecting the environment.”
Archibald said over the past year, she and her staff developed a paper called “A Path to Economic Prosperity” which has been submitted to the Government of Ontario.
She suggested better regional partnerships with municipalities and surrounding businesses are needed. The paper also contains a request for an increase in capital investment funding.
“This is a real challenge for First Nations.”
Archibald pointed to strong birth rate numbers and increasing populations in First Nations communities as signs of a growing potential.
“We really see that First Nations are positioned to be major contributors to their regional, provincial, and national economies.”
She acknowledged there are many in-depth discussions and negotiations to be had in the near future, and hopefully, they will be to the benefit of everyone.
“There isn’t a formula for reconciliation that fits all corporate entities, but there are some elements that are foundational, and can be adopted and adapted. Building relationships mean ensuring that First Nations have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector,” said Archibald.
“Businesses need to recognize that economic development and social development are inter-connected. For First Nations in Ontario, economic development is about long term social transformation, community safety, education, and housing through the creation of wealth and nationhood development, not necessarily just for profit.”
Archibald said respectful corporate communities should provide education for management and staff on the history of First Nations people, including the unfortunate legacy of residential schools, as well as treaties and rights, Indigenous law, and Indigenous-Crown relationships. It would require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism measures.
“Without these meaningful actions, First Nations who are brought into businesses often have their voices token-ized or minimized.
Your approach to corporate relationships with First Nations has to change, in the same way that your business, and the world, is constantly changing.”
Archibald said that with the current situation surrounding the pandemic, and what is being called “the new normal,” now is the perfect time to have these discussions.
“This is our opportunity to really transform these relationships. It gives us an opportunity to see one another, and learn about our shared history.”
Archibald later opened the virtual floor to questions. Selby asked for her thoughts on where she feels mining companies have succeeded in building relationships with First Nations, and where they have fallen short.
“Those resources that are being mined belong to First Nations, in my view,” she replied, noting the sacred spiritual connection to the land.
“Having said that, there are some First Nations who are engaged in mining activities because they see a potential benefit there.”
Archibald said there is a major next step that needs to take place; First Nation ownership of businesses, such as mining companies.
“So it’s not just sharing in profits. It’s actually owning mines, owning the infrastructure, and I think we have to get there for First Nations to really, truly benefit.”