By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Former Enoch Cree Nation chief and grand chief for the Confederacy of Treaty 6, Billy Morin, has started a new relationship with Axxcelus Capital Advisory.
At one time he teamed up with Axxcelus to bring prosperity to his First Nation in Alberta for the development of natural resources. He will now work for Axxcelus to help other Indigenous communities benefit from natural resource development as well.
“When I was chief of Enoch, this was a group, a team, that had proven that they knew how to walk into communities and to be respectful of those communities, and knew how to take Indigenous perspectives first in Indigenous transactions,” said Morin, who served as Enoch chief from 2015 to June 2022.
He is quick to point out that too many organizations, start-ups and large companies don’t show that same respect or understanding “and communities don’t feel that trust, and they feel that trust in Axxcelus.”
Axxcelus Capital Advisory was formed in 2020 and serves as an “an independent merchant bank dedicated to facilitating growth in Indigenous asset ownership and bridging the relationship between Industry, Government, and Indigenous communities for long-term economic prosperity,” according to the group’s website.
The company already has an impressive track record, said Morin.
His first encounter with Axxcelus was the work the company undertook to help structure the $1.5 billion Cascade Power Project, which was the first project to receive a loan guarantee under the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation. The Enoch Cree Nation was one of six First Nations to form the Indigenous Communities Syndicate LP to invest $93 million in the project. When completed in fall 2023, Cascade will supply eight per cent of Alberta’s electricity needs while reducing Alberta’s carbon emissions by five per cent.
The Cascade Power Project won an international award for innovation in First Nations partnership and long-term contracting strategy. Project Finance International, known as a leading source of global project finance intelligence, honoured the project with its Canadian Power Deal of the Year for 2020.
Since then, and under Morin’s leadership, Enoch Cree Nation has formed the First Nation Capital Investment Partnership (FNCIP) with three other Treaty 6 Nations, and joined forces with other Indigenous communities, to advance two carbon capture projects.
FNCIP is working with Axxcelus as its exclusive financial advisor.
It’s this ability to bring Nations together and work in collaboration, says Morin, that he will be bringing to his new role as managing director for Axxcelus.
He’s already in his “comfort zone” with the company, he says, as he knows firsthand the important work done by Axxcelus in the areas of environmental, social and governance (ESG).
“I think there’s a lot of people trying to go into this space,”
said Morin. “The ask has to be highlighted for Indigenous governments, Indigenous ownership, Indigenous inclusion in business, especially in the resource sector and land-based economies, and Axxcelus really helps Indigenous communities highlight the ask for those companies looking to promote ESG.”
Morin said his new role will allow him to have a single goal, which being a chief did not.
“I’m a lot more focused. I’m not going to say it’s more easy.
It’s a new challenge and I appreciate that it’s more focused, because when you’re chief, you’re all things to everybody including external and internal stakeholders and community members,” he said.
Morin has been working with Axxcelus for about a month. In that time he has travelled to Bay Street, the country’s financial industry, to meet with major capital investors.
“I was surprised to learn that they don’t know much about the Indigenous communities and some of the resource sector out west. But they were willing to learn. Someone is going to have to facilitate that and there’s no better team than the Axxcelus team that can bring both worlds together,” he said.
That work will involve building trust between the private sector and Indigenous communities, he said.
Morin is adamant, however, that whatever work Axxcelus undertakes will always be driven by Indigenous communities and will not be limited to operating in a western way. He points to the Enoch Cree Nation which, he says, did foundational work in reviving language and culture and used that lens to conduct business in its own unique way.
“The decision-making always comes down to the chiefs and councils and their communities and their people. I will just be helping them structure and facilitate in ways that hasn’t been done before for big equity deals with the provincial, federal and private sectors,” said Morin.
Paul Poscente, CEO of Axxcelus, says the addition of Morin is an opportunity for the Axxcelus team to learn.
“We value his voice and unique perspective around our table, strengthening our decisions and strategy,” said Poscente in a statement.
The work that Axxcelus will facilitate, says Morin, is important in this era of reconciliation.
“We have treaty rights here across the prairies (and) in Treaty 6 we talk about resources being under ownership of First Nations, and we only give up to the depth of a plow,” said Morin.
“I think in today’s modern context, we have to turn that from just talk to action. So Axxcelus helps people in the business context take that talk to action on actual ownership of natural resource projects.”
“Our team is now well positioned to pursue Canada’s first fund dedicated to Indigenous ownership in major projects,” said Poscente.
Shari Narine is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter who works for
Windspeaker.com. The LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.