ARCHIVED - Renovating Programs in Support of Lands & Economic Development - Alberta Region Engagement Session

Archived information

This Web page has been archived on the Web. Archived information is provided for reference, research or record keeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

October 19–20, 2010
Edmonton, Alberta

This report was produced under contract with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) by a firm of independent conference content specialists whose responsibility was to capture and synthesize as accurately as possible the discussions from this engagement session. Opinions expressed are those of the individual participants cited and should not be considered as endorsed by INAC.

Table of Contents

Stakeholder Engagement Reports

Released in June 2009, the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development provides a new and comprehensive approach to Aboriginal economic development that reflects the significant, real and growing opportunities for Aboriginal people in Canada. The Framework provides for a focused, government-wide approach that is responsive to new and changing economic conditions and leverages partnerships to address persistent barriers that impede the full participation of Aboriginal people in the Canadian economy.

While the Framework represents a modern and strategic approach to Aboriginal economic development, several of the economic development programs delivered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada have been in place for many years and need to be updated in order to be more responsive to the unique needs and opportunities of First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

In keeping with the Government of Canada's commitment to develop meaningful partnerships with stakeholders, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada organized a series of national and regional stakeholder engagement sessions to obtain input on how Aboriginal economic development programs may be renovated to better meet the needs of Aboriginal people across Canada.

These sessions took place from May to December 2010 and focused on obtaining input from individuals and organizations with direct experience in Aboriginal economic development. The process also focused on building and strengthening existing partnerships with all stakeholders and determining the unique needs and goals of First Nations, Metis and Inuit as they relate to economic development. In total, nineteen sessions took place reaching approximately 860 stakeholders.

All of the input obtained during the regional engagement sessions was captured by a firm of independent conference content specialists. The content specialists have carefully synthesized the feedback received from the Saskatchewan regional stakeholder engagement session and prepared this final report. The report captures the discussions from the Saskatchewan session including details regarding the aspects of programming that stakeholders consider to be working well, areas requiring improvement and key recommendations regarding priorities for funding and changes to program design and delivery.

The input provided by stakeholders, as detailed in the report, is now being used to inform program renovation options for the lands, business and community economic development programs administered by INAC.

Return to Table of Contents

Purpose of Meeting

The purpose of the meeting was to seek feedback from First Nations in Alberta on how programs may be changed to better meet their needs, in line with the strategic objectives of the new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development.

Over two days, First Nation community economic development representatives were asked to develop ideas for improving or renewing programs and improving the business climate.

Return to Table of Contents

Introductions and Agenda Overview

Winston Lapatak
Director, Economic Development
Saddle Lake Band

Terence Wade
Lead Facilitator

Winston Lapatak thanked Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) for inviting him to the engagement, saying everyone in the room understood the importance of the meetings. Speaking first in Cree and then in English, he encouraged participants to choose to work together, noting, "Regardless of what territory we come from and what race we come from, we will accomplish what we need to if we work together."

Terence Wade thanked Mr. Lapatak for his words, and asked participants to introduce themselves to three people they did not already know. Wade introduced himself and reviewed the agenda highlights.

Wade invited Jim Sisson to provide an Alberta perspective on program renovation.

Return to Table of Contents


Jim Sisson
Acting Regional Director General, Alberta Region
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Jim Sisson welcomed participants to the engagement session, saying "These sessions are very important in terms of looking for a way to move forward." Speaking from an Alberta perspective, he noted that out of a $799 million budget for the region, only "a pittance—just a few million—gets spent on economic development," whereas $110 million is spent on children's services, and over one-third of the regional budget is allotted to social programs.

"This is just not right," said Mr. Sisson. "While we may need that now, it won't always be that way."

Mr. Sisson identified the challenges facing Alberta's First Nations, including education, housing, and the relationship between Canada and its First Nations people, noting that economic development could "play a big role in changing that." The current suite of economic development programs has not been reviewed since 1989, and these engagement sessions will provide Alberta's First Nations with the opportunity to evaluate them. "It's high time for a change," he said.

Audience Response System (ARS) Questions 1-4

Q1. Are you

Q2. Is your community located in

Q3. In which area do you primarily work? (You may select more than one response.)

Q4. Do you work for

Mr. Wade said INAC would be seeking additional input from land management officers to address the low number of land management representatives. He asked those who had indicated "Other" to ARS Question 3 to share the focus of their work. The responses included consultation, CEO with tribal council, tourism, and band managers.

Return to Table of Contents

Why We are Here: Context for Program Renewal

Andrew Beynon
Director General, Lands Branch
Lands and Economic Development
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - Headquarters

Neil Burnett
Director, Community Economic Development
Lands and Economic Development
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - Headquarters

Andrew Beynon said one goal of the program renewal and engagement process is to ensure that "we don't lose what's working right now." He said the "updated and modernized" program proposals would be used to advise ministers and the Treasury Board about the changes that need to be made.

Mr. Beynon said the new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development, which was developed in 2009, aims to "set an overall approach to dealing with economic development," and First Nation input is needed to implement the Framework properly. Programs implemented under the new Framework must be more flexible, more responsive to opportunities, and better able to demonstrate outcomes and results. They should also encourage partnerships.

Mr. Beynon said strategic priorities would be used to focus on the new Framework. Other federal departments, such as Human Resources and Skills Development, Environment Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, are also setting strategic priorities. These priorities are broad categories that aim to focus the federal government's role, giving it clearer direction and helping to promote collaboration and partnerships across departments. These partnerships—between federal departments, but also with the private sector—are essential to enhancing the future of economic development programming.

The government is investing $50 million per year for four years to support the new Framework. Mr. Beynon said the government is "committed to aligning the existing suite of programs that support Aboriginal economic development with the Framework's strategic priorities."

He outlined the key drivers directing program renovation:

Mr. Beynon said the engagement session would focus on three broad categories of programming: entrepreneurship, community opportunities, and lands and environmental management. These categories include 13 different programs. Noting a departmental consensus that this number of programs is too high, he said "From an internal perspective, we need to simplify and consolidate programs." Mr. Beynon described each program, indicating those which seem problematic, such as the "clumsy, antiquated" process for land designation, and those which had met with particular success, such as the First Nations Land Management regime.

Mr. Beynon invited Neil Burnett to speak about the community opportunities programs. Mr. Burnett described the Community Economic Development Program (CEDP), a $50 million fund; the Community Support Services program, a $10 million fund; and the Community Economic Opportunity Program (CEOP), a $20 million fund.

Mr. Beynon said changes to the economic development programs should be guided by several principles, including:

Mr. Beynon identified several recurring themes that arose at previous engagement sessions, including:

Mr. Beynon said the results will be taken to the ministers and Cabinet once the sessions finish in November, noting, "At some level, changes becomes a political decision." By the spring of 2011, "my colleagues and I want to be able to come back and talk to you about what changes are coming," he said.


One participant asked Mr. Beynon for specific details regarding the $50 million allotted to programs over the next four years, asking whether the funds would be targeted for economic development and land management. "Our lands management budget is nil so we have to find money for that," the participant said.

Mr. Beynon said the new investments would be partially allocated to a new program area called the Strategic Partnerships Initiative (SPI) for certain industrial activities that were less prominent in the old system, such as major energy development. The Initiative's goal is also to encourage cooperation among federal departments. Issues relating to economic development and land are closely linked, said Mr. Beynon, noting, "These two streams have been too far apart but we are trying to get the synergy for bringing these two areas together."

Another participant said he felt frustrated by INAC's "made-in-Ottawa, ivory-tower approach." He said the Framework should have been developed with representatives from across the country. The new Framework "shuffles the money around" but does not add new dollars to the programs. He called for INAC to play a role in facilitating relationships with business and the provinces, saying this type of "horizontal integration" would require INAC to work more closely with other federal departments, regions, and other programs to create a more streamlined approach.

Mr. Beynon said the renovations are about using existing dollars more effectively, and "if we are successful, we will pave the way for unlocking more dollars in the future."

Another participant asked whether economic development funding had increased since 1989. He said he wanted to know "exactly what we're dealing with" before looking at program changes. He also asked whether additional dollars had been added to the fund to support the inclusion of the Métis into the Federal Framework.

Mr. Burnett referred participants to the current figures in the participant package and said he would find the 1989 figures and Alberta-only figures and report back to the group.

Another participant said he was not supportive of the Loan Loss Reserve (LLR) program, noting that legal action has been taken against this program in some provinces.

Mr. Beynon said INAC was aware of the criticism about that particular program but decisions about its future status had not been made.

Another participant said her band currently receives funding from a few economic development programs but the process is difficult and full of barriers. "We are trying to grow economically, but it feels like you're not ready for us," she said. "You put us in high-risk positions. It feels like you don't have the capacity for good business sense."

Mr. Wade noted that these types of concerns are exactly what the small group discussions included in the engagement are intended to address.

ARS Questions 5-6

Q5. How familiar are you with INAC's current community economic development and business development programs?

Q6. How familiar are you with INAC's current lands and environmental management programs?

Return to Table of Contents

Reflections on Current Programming

Mr. Wade asked each of the eight tables in the plenary session to discuss three things that work with the current suite of programs and three things that do not.

The following strengths were identified:

The following problems were identified:

ARS Questions (ad hoc)

How many think INAC capacity/ability to turn things around at appropriate speed is a problem?

How many think a severe disconnect between community needs and guidelines for eligibility is a significant problem?

Do you feel the way the federal government manages risk negatively affects the effectiveness of programs?

Is greater access to equity dollars important?

One participant said capacity must be built within the community, rather than being provided by INAC.

Another participant noted that the process for the Major Resource and Energy Development Investments Initiative (MRED) seemed incomplete.

A participant said the engagement session entails First Nations assisting the government to renovate the programs from the government's perspective, rather than from a First Nation perspective.

Another participant noted that "this all started with a treaty signing and those treaties included fiduciary components." He said it seems like the fiduciary components are "being phased out." Program renovation should start at the grassroots level—with the people and the treaty.

Return to Table of Contents

Expanding the Infrastructure Financing Toolkit

ARS Questions 7-10

Q7. How familiar are you with INAC's community infrastructure program?

Q8. Does your community currently have infrastructure projects that are waiting for INAC to proceed?

Q9. Are deficits in infrastructure impeding your community's ability to pursue economic development opportunities?

Q10. Has your community used debt financing to finance infrastructure projects?

Louise Atkins
Director, Innovations and Partnerships
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - Headquarters

Louise Atkins thanked participants for attending the engagement session, saying, "I really believe that what you're doing is terribly important to communities and to building brighter futures for First Nations communities." She said her role is to find ways to "make better use of existing funding to help First Nations meet their infrastructure needs," including a discussion of how infrastructure is paid for, where infrastructure financing can be obtained, how to develop capacity to use financing tools, the link between economic development and infrastructure, and how to manage the infrastructure life cycle.

INAC provides about $1 billion annually to assist First Nations with infrastructure support, primarily through the Capital Facilities and Maintenance (CFM) program. Most of this funding is used to maintain and repair existing infrastructure, leaving little money for new infrastructure investment. However, as reserve populations grow, the strain on existing infrastructure grows too, said Ms. Atkins. The current infrastructure backlog on reserves is estimated to be $3.5 billion.

Ms. Atkins said INAC recognizes that a single approach to infrastructure financing will not work. INAC wants to increase financing options to relieve pressure on limited funding and to deliver infrastructure to First Nations "when they want it and when they need it."

Most communities currently rely primarily on INAC for infrastructure funding. Ms. Atkins said INAC wants to support First Nations by developing and facilitating the use of alternative funds such as partnerships, user fees, and existing alternative funders, such as Public-Private Partnerships Canada. She emphasized the importance of "moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach." INAC is interested in models that will help communities work with one another and with municipalities, provinces, and the private sector. "We would really like to discuss any projects you're interested in undertaking. For change to work it will have to be driven by you and your communities," she said.


A participant asked Ms. Atkins to define "user fees"—"Do you mean I would charge people in my community to use a building?"

Ms. Atkins said some on-reserve communities charge a modest, flat fee for waste water services.

The participant said people in her community would not be able to afford to pay user fees, and charging such fees would affect the standard of living. Ms. Atkins said this approach might not work for all communities, noting that user fees are also controversial in non-First Nation communities.

Another participant asked where the money for alternative financing would come from. "How do you know what money we have to do these activities?" she asked. "Where does this money come from for a debt-financing situation? Are you assuming we have business money, oil money, the money to go into a debt-financing situation?"

Ms. Atkins said INAC wants to support communities to enhance funding options, asking, "If you're already receiving a certain amount, can we create a funding stream that could yield some income?"

A participant asked whether this means that the money a community already has affects infrastructure decisions—"So if we build a bridge, our debt financing would only go as far as our contribution agreement?"

Ms. Atkins said the infrastructure financing review has not reached the stage where decisions about specific options have been made. She noted that First Nation input is needed prior to making decisions—"We need to hear from you. You're the experts."

The participant said, "Yes, we're the experts but you're the one holding the money. We don't want to be put in a risk position. We don't have what it takes to do these things."

Ms. Atkins said the intent of the review is to determine ways to improve infrastructure financing, and the ideas presented are suggestions for participants' consideration as to whether they would work.

Another participant asked whether INAC was looking for input on both public and commercial infrastructure, and for Ms. Atkins' thoughts on own-source funding revenue.

Ms. Atkins said INAC would like to hear about the link between public and commercial infrastructure. Own-source funding might work for some communities but strict constraints are often placed on the use of that funding.

Another participant said he was "fearful of government money management issues." Noting that the government's job is to assist First Nations with improving and repairing infrastructure, he said this is difficult when funding is not available for housing directors or plumbers. "You don't have funding for capacity," he said.

Ms. Atkins agreed that capacity support is an important issue.

Mr. Wade asked whether participants would like to move into breakout groups or remain in plenary. Participants voted to stay in plenary and the questions on community infrastructure were discussed at each table.

Return to Table of Contents

Exploring Options for Financing Community Infrastructure

Summary of Group Discussion 1 in Plenary

Participants at one of the tables said their communities borrowed money to offset deficits, expand business, and build a tribal office. They identified public-private partnerships, loans from Aboriginal financial institutions, and credit-enhancement tools for private borrowing as the best infrastructure financing tools for their communities.

Participants at another table said infrastructure issues go beyond the scope of the three questions. The representative for this group said INAC has a responsibility to address infrastructure issues on reserves. "It is not our worry how you do it, the point is that you are responsible for it. We don't care how you do it. You can make roads to get oil barons home from work, but you can't give Canada's original peoples safe water."

While participants from this table recognized that INAC must leverage monies as effectively as possible, they said political will is key to financing infrastructure on reserves. The representative said this engagement session is about infrastructure and economic development, but First Nation input would soon be sought on issues such as post-secondary education or health care. "You want us to figure out your problems. But it's not our problem—it is your problem. These are loaded questions. That's why we didn't think about answering them. Hopefully, you will take that message back."

Ms. Atkins acknowledged his words, noting that even if you feel that the questions do not address the issues, participants feel the need to talk about these issues and INAC still needs to hear your feedback. Participants at another table said First Nations should be able to use economic development funds and gaming dollars as credit against loans, which could make up for the lack of infrastructure funding. Participants said private-public partnerships could be risky. The representative for this group said, "If we tax the gas company, they'll just charge us the same amount back."

Participants from one table said INAC should coordinate its programs more effectively with other financing options. The representative for this table said, "The Nation itself can't buy property. We had to create another company in order to buy property. This undermines our ability to move forward." First Nations want the freedom to choose a bank or financial institution. Participants said the questions posed during the engagement session cast First Nations in a negative light and give the impression that First Nations are unable to handle their own money.

Participants at another table said privatization was not relevant to Alberta First Nations, noting that financing options should be flexible enough to address the different needs of different communities. Financing options must also recognize the differences between community and commercial infrastructure. The representative for this group said, "We're talking about public good, but that doesn't fit under economic development. We're not going to find a way to make money off public services."

Participants at one table said the idea of a how-to guide was "a bit insulting." Infrastructure projects require financial talent and experience—which many First Nations do not have. The representative for this group said, "This is a major capacity issue. I think it is a real shame that you would ask a question like that." He said the issue of public infrastructure should not be considered at all, adding, "The provincial and federal government owe us so much they should provide us with good schools, water, roads, education, and only then could we talk about other issues."

Participants at another table said INAC has provided guidelines and rules, but First Nations do not have the resources to follow these rules. "People in economic development are magicians. They have to create money out of nothing. They don't even have the capacity to write a proposal," said this table's representative. He said his group is "fearful of answering these questions" because the questions hint at "changes that are on the way." First Nation communities are growing and INAC will soon be unable to address infrastructure issues.

Participants at one table said many First Nations, especially smaller First Nations, are struggling. The representative for this table said, "We know our communities best. We know our cultures. We can build what we need best. Why we aren't allowed to do that?"

One participant asked about the policies that govern existing infrastructure, in particular those governing the relationship between community and business infrastructure.

Ms. Atkins noted the difficulty of "parceling out" the relationship between community and commercial infrastructure. She said a wider policy is needed as the usual policy formulas do not fully recognize this link.

Another participant said reserves "are not at all like municipalities," and infrastructure funding options that work in municipalities would not work for First Nations. He asked how First Nations could work with the province in a way that does not negatively affect their treaties.

"The disparity between what INAC thinks and what we are experiencing is great," said another participant. He said reserves require the same services as a municipality, but do not have the same supports.

Mr. Wade thanked participants for their input and invited participants to move into breakout groups to discuss innovative program options for lands and economic development.

Day Two: Agenda Overview

Mr. Wade welcomed participants to the second day of the engagement session. He said the day would start with reports from the previous day's breakout groups on innovative program options, move on to a discussion of how to improve INAC's economic development programs, and end by identifying ways to measure the success of the renovated programs.

Return to Table of Contents

Innovative Program Options for Lands and Economic Development

Summary of Breakout Discussion 2

Janice Rose
Jeff Cook
Terence Wade

The facilitators summarized and presented the key themes and points raised during the breakout sessions. Breakout group participants made the following comments regarding aspects of current INAC programs that work well:

Breakout group participants identified ways INAC could address barriers to economic development, including:

Participants identified ways in which INAC's renovated programs could effectively support differing capacity development needs, including:

Return to Table of Contents

Making Programs Work

ARS Questions 11-16

Q11. The following five issues are often described as barriers to Aboriginal economic development. Please rank them in the order in which you consider they impede economic development, from the most important obstacle to the least important.

Q12. Does your community have a full-time Economic Development Officer?

Q13. Does your community have a full-time Lands Management Officer?

Q14. Does your community have an economic development plan?

Q15. Does your community have a land-use plan?

Q16. Are you familiar with the Reserve Land and Environment Management Program (RLEMP)?

One participant said if close to 80% of participants are not aware of RLEMP, it might be useful to promote the program more fully.

Mr. Wade said this is the type of recommendation that should come out of the engagement session. He reiterated that all of the input from the engagement sessions is being gathered in a report that will be shared with participants and used by INAC to improve existing programs.

ARS Questions 17-21

Q17. What type of economic opportunities primarily exist in your community? Please rank them in the order from the most prevalent to the least prevalent.

Q18. The following five issues are often described as important obstacles to accessing INAC's lands and economic development programming. Please rank them in the order in which you consider they impede access, from the most important obstacle to the least important.

Q19. Has your community generally been successful when applying for and accessing funding from INAC's Community Economic Opportunities Program?

Q20. Has your community or individuals in your community generally been successful applying and accessing funding from INAC's Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP)?

Q21. Please rank the following types of programming in order of importance to your community, from most important to least important.

Summary of Breakout Discussion 3

Mr. Wade asked participants to identify specific ways to improve programs. Participants were first asked to identify funding priorities for Aboriginal economic development within the current budget. The facilitators of each of the three breakout groups summarized and presented the key themes and points discussed in their groups. Key themes were:

Along with these general themes, breakout group participants identified the following specific funding priorities:

Participants were also asked to identify ways to improve the current funding formula for the CEDP. All three breakout groups expressed concern about the amount of funding available. One participant asked whether funding had increased since the inclusion of Métis and Inuit for funding opportunities, noting, "If the fund hasn't increased, I would have a real issue with that."

Participants made the following suggestions for improving the funding formula:

As well as suggestions for improving the funding formula, the following comments were made about land use:

Return to Table of Contents

Making Programs Work (continued)

Summary of Breakout Discussion 4

Participants identified ways that INAC programs and processes could be improved to support timely decision making and improve efficiency, including:

Breakout group participants identified ways INAC could improve service standards, including:

Participants discussed ways in which INAC could realize the benefits of program harmonization, including:

ARS Question 22

Q22. The following five issues are often described as significant contributors to the reporting burden faced by INAC program funding recipients. Please rank them in the order in which you consider they increase the reporting burden, from the most burdensome to the least burdensome contributor.

Return to Table of Contents

Measuring Success

Summary of Breakout Discussion 5

Mr. Wade said the last exercise of the day would take place in plenary and asked participants to ensure a minimum of five participants at each table. He said the discussions would focus on issues related to reporting, adding, "There is a reason reporting happens. In order to justify these programs, INAC needs to be able to tell the story to Treasury Board and Cabinet."

INAC recognizes that the current reporting structure focuses on outputs, and "outputs are not about success." Success is "not about how many people finished a program" but about things such as secure employment, viable business opportunities, quality of life and community pride, said Mr. Wade.

Small group participants said their communities measure success by:

At the community level, successful economic development projects are "not about profit, but about social economy," said participants. When reporting back to the community regarding successful economic development projects, the focus is on assets acquired, number of jobs, and quality of life. Participants said reporting to the community takes place at general meetings and through newsletters.

Small group participants said the effectiveness of the renovated programs could be measured by:

Participants said INAC reporting could be improved by:

Mr. Burnett said he had endeavored to track down the funding figures that had been requested on the first day:

Business Development programs in 1989/90
National: not available; Alberta not available

Business Development programs in 2010/2011
National: $45.7 million; Alberta $4.3 million

Community Economic Development programs in 1989/90
National: not available; Alberta; $7.7 million

Community Economic Development programs in 2010/11
National $89.5 million; Alberta $9.9 million

Return to Table of Contents

Review of Engagement Session and Next Steps

Andrew Beynon
Director General, Lands Branch
Lands and Economic Development
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - Headquarters

Mr. Beynon thanked participants for their insights and input. He said he still needed to meet with Alberta land managers to hear about their experience with the programs. He summarized some of the recurring points he had heard over the past few days:

Mr. Beynon and Mr. Wade thanked everyone for their role in organizing and participating in the event.

Return to Table of Contents

Closing Prayer

Kathleen Alexis
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation

Kathleen Alexis thanked the organizers for asking her to close the session. She said the sessions provided an important opportunity for First Nations to provide input and insights. She ended the engagement session with a prayer.

Return to Table of Contents

List of Participants

Date modified: