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

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December 8–9, 2010
Yellowknife, NWT

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.

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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 Northwest Territories regional stakeholder engagement session and prepared this final report. The report captures the discussions from the Northwest Territories 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.

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Day 1 Purpose of Meeting

The purpose of the meeting was to learn from Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories how changes to Economic Development Programs can better meet their needs. A new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development recognizes that the conditions, needs, and opportunities of Aboriginal Canadians have changed. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is renovating funding programs to fit the new Framework. To implement effective changes, INAC needs to hear from stakeholders.

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Introduction and Agenda Overview

Michel Paper
Dene Elder

George Mackenzie

Elder Michel Paper offered an opening prayer.

George Mackenzie thanked the Elder for the prayer, and welcomed the participants. He said INAC sponsored this session to get participants' feedback on renovating Lands and Economic Development programs.

Mr. Mackenzie introduced Trish Merrithew-Mercredi, NWT Regional Director General, whom many people know and are glad to welcome back to the North, and Kimberly Fairman, Director General, Operations, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor).

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Trish Merrithew-Mercredi
Regional Director General, Northwest Territories
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Kimberley Fairman
Director General, Operations

Trish Merrithew-Mercredi thanked participants for taking time to contribute knowledge and experience in support of Lands and Economic Development (LED).

"You're part of a Canada-wide engagement about improving a program that is designed to enhance Aboriginal participation in economic development," she said.

She noted that while Aboriginal programs tend to focus on southern needs or the needs of First Nations on reserves, this NWT engagement can help focus programs on Northern issues: "Economic development in the North has its own unique challenges." Ms. Merrithew-Mercredi said Aboriginal, federal, and territorial governments and industry must work together to ensure the strength and prosperity of First Nations people in the North.

Over the years, Aboriginal labour force participation, self-employment, and income levels have all improved. Revenue from diamond mines exceeds $600 million annually, and Aboriginal employment in the mines has gone from 35% to 55% over the last few years. However, Ms. Merrithew-Mercredi said, "We still have a long way to go."

Recent events show that global issues, such as recession in far-off countries, affect everyone. The Northwest Territories change at the same pace as the rest of the world, with gold mines closing and diamond mines opening up while once-vibrant oil and gas exploration falls to near ruin, said Ms. Merrithew-Mercredi. She noted the need to celebrate successes and learn from negative outcomes, and said it is important to clarify the government's role in this changing environment.

Government programs must reflect the reality in the North, and programs must respond to new economic situations and opportunities. Stakeholders such as the participants at today's engagement meeting are best positioned to speak to the changing environment, Ms. Merrithew-Mercredi said.

"We are looking to you to help build on successes, and identify new challenges and barriers, especially those unique to the North."

She said the goal of the new Federal Framework on Economic Development is to support:

The Government of Canada's integrated Northern Strategy envisions healthy communities where confident, self-reliant citizens manage their own affairs and shape their own destinies; fragile ecosystems are protected; and strong accountable governments work together to benefit Northerners and all Canadians.

A new economic development office for the North, CanNor, will be a central source of advice and guidance to clients. CanNor can provide research and advocacy about Northern issues. Northern research and science are key, said Ms. Merrithew-Mercredi. Both traditional ecological knowledge and Western science should be used to influence land use planning, determine the impact of developments, and mitigate adverse effects.

CanNor will support community-based monitoring, capacity-building, and involvement in decision-making. This includes establishing infrastructure for research, and $8 million over two years for community-based monitoring and reporting through the Community Impact Monitoring Program (CIMP).

The NWT has world-class resource potential. Responsible economic development should continue and northern Aboriginal people should actively participate and benefit, Ms. Merrithew-Mercredi said. Participants' input at this meeting will help to ensure communities are ready to both create and participate in economic opportunities.

Kimberly Fairman thanked Chief Sansgris and the community of Dettah for hosting this event. She said the discussions would be very informative for CanNor and that she would be keen to hear feedback both from the workshops and from written submissions.

Ms. Fairman said the perspective participants bring to the discussions is invaluable, and the recommendations will affect the work of CanNor and INAC.

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Why We Are Here: Context for Program Renewal

Terence Wade,

Terence Wade said he felt honoured to be in Dettah on Dene territory. He also recognized that the Native Communications Society was broadcasting live across the NWT in five different languages. Mr. Wade, who has worked for Canadian Heritage, said that CKLB was one of the best broadcasting corporations in Canada, showing what can be achieved in the North.

Mr. Wade said, as a facilitator, his job is to hear participants and make sure their voices are heard by INAC. INAC Director General Allan Clarke, who was unfortunately unable to attend today's session, had asked Mr. Wade, who had facilitated the engagements across the country, to speak on his behalf, explaining the context for program renovation.

Mr. Wade said the last policy framework, the Canadian Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy (CAEDS), was released 21 years ago. The new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development, released in 2009, represents a response to changing conditions and new opportunities for Aboriginal Canadians. Engagements across the country, including this one, are intended to guide implementation of this Framework.

Strategic priorities

Mr. Wade said the Framework has five strategic priorities:

The implementation plan has two key elements: first, new investment of $50 million per year for four years; second, renovation of programs to better support Aboriginal economic development. Mr. Wade gave the example of the new Strategic Partnership Initiative to support Aboriginal participation in forestry, fishing, mining, and energy. It is intended to be a co-ordinated effort for major projects, regionally focused on real, specific opportunities. He said the engagements are important to help establish programs that respond to opportunities for communities and regions.

Key drivers

Mr. Wade outlined the key drivers that will guide program renovation:

Mr. Wade highlighted the importance of the new Treasury Board Policy on Transfer Payments. The new policy on grants and contributions introduces more flexibility for Aboriginal programs, and makes funding programs proportionate to risk. Programs cannot be targeted at everyone with the same conditions: "Renovated programs must respond to different needs of individual communities."

Current programs

Mr. Wade described the three areas that were the focus of the review. He said INAC recognizes that the programs need to be better coordinated and integrated.

  1. Aboriginal entrepreneurship: supporting Aboriginal financial institutions, promoting access to equity and debt financing, supporting small and medium business, developing major resources
    • Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP)
    • Access to Capital Program (ATC)
    • Financial Institutions Program (FIP)
    • Major Resource and Energy Development (MRED)
    • Loan Loss Reserve Program (LLR)
  2. Community Opportunities
    • Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative (AWPI)
    • Community Economic Development Program (CEDP)
    • Community Support Services Program (CSSP)
    • Community Economic Opportunities Program (CEOP)
    • Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business (PSAB)
  3. Lands and Environmental Management
    • Reserve Land and Environment Management Program (RLEMP)
    • First Nations Land Management Regime (FNLM)
    • Commercial Leasing (CL)
    • Contaminated Sites Management Program (CSMP)

Guiding principles

Guiding principles for program renovation are to

Mr. Wade said renovation will build on what works and change what does not work based on feedback from communities.

"We've been hearing that comprehensive, integrated community planning is critical to creating economic success stories." The Aboriginal development programs should support medium- and long-term goals, and they should take into account the social, economic, and environmental well-being of Northern Aboriginal communities. The message that the government needs to develop partnerships with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities has been loud and clear, Mr. Wade said.


Mr. Wade summarized what INAC is trying to achieve. He said this list is not exclusive, and INAC wants to hear all of participants' concerns, but the list represents a starting point:

Stakeholder engagement

Mr. Wade said there has been a robust engagement process, with 18 meetings held so far across the country. He summarized what INAC has heard to date:

Mr. Wade said he has also heard strong expressions of the need to support comprehensive community planning for economic development, which is fundamental to the social well-being of communities. Communities and First Nations want control over decision-making. Priorities for programming should be determined by communities, not Ottawa.

Mr. Wade said participant feedback would be incorporated into the program renovation process. Recommendations would be phased in as early as the summer of 2011 depending on the extent of the renovations. He thanked the hosts for their welcome, and said he looked forward to hearing participants' input.

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Reflections on Current Programming

Stan Wesley

Stan Wesley thanked the Dene for hosting the conference on their territory. He asked participants at tables to discuss amongst themselves what is working and what is not about INAC's Economic Development programs. He said INAC is here to listen, "not to argue, but to listen to you, your ideas, on making things right. These programs affect you, your brother, nephew, sister. We understand your passion."

Reports Back from Discussion

Participants identified some strengths:

Participants expressed frustration in a number of areas:

No true government-to-government relationship

Lack of accountability from INAC

Insufficient funding

Lack of information about programs

Inequities in program accessibility

Issues with timing and lack of flexibility

Cumbersome application and reporting processes

Lack of support for capacity-building

Lack of long-term holistic planning

Lack of support for traditional economy

Specific programs

Mr. Wade thanked participants for their input. He indicated which programs would be delivered by CanNor (ABDP, AWPI, CEDP, CEOP, CSSP), and said Nicole Jauvin, president of CanNor, was present and listening.

Mr. Wade said that while some concerns are unique to the North, many reflect similar concerns heard across the country. These include:

Mr. Wade said it is good that these things have been stressed everywhere, because INAC is listening. The discussion questions on the second day would allow participants to explore solutions. The day closed with a prayer by Dene Elder Alfred Baillargeon.

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Day 2 Agenda Overview

Terence Wade

Terence Wade said that during this second day of the engagement session, participants would discuss program options, how to improve programs, and ways to measure the success of renovated programs.

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Innovative Program Options–Lands and Economic Development

Summary of Breakout Discussion 2

George Mackenzie
Stan Wesley
Beverley O'Neil
Terence Wade

Dene Elder Mike Francois, began the day with a prayer.

Stan Wesley introduced the breakout group discussion questions on how to renovate programs to address barriers, support capacity development, and meet the needs of modern treaty holders. He said innovation is the key to success, livelihood, and survival for all people.

Mr. Wesley and Beverley O'Neil summarized participants' comments from the previous day's plenary session, noting the participants were passionate in their concerns with the program and with INAC in general.

Participants discussed how programs could address barriers to economic development:

Participants discussed how programs could better support differing capacity development:

Participants discussed how programs can support the way treaty holders do business.


A participant said there should be equality of pay and benefits, whether one works for federal, territorial, or First Nation government. In addition, she said, many people working on projects get fired or quit because of traditional beliefs or practices, such as going to a funeral or on a hunt. "We need to look at rules that infringe on rights and traditional ways."

Finally, participants said there has been lots of talk and it is time to see some action and results.

George Mackenzie thanked participants for their comments.

Mr. Wade said that the economic development programs that are shifting to CanNor are still the same programs, and that they are exclusive to Aboriginal people, communities, and organizations. He said that Nicole Jauvin, president of CanNor, is here listening to people's concerns.

Mr. Wade noted that a key message from these discussions is that capacity building and social and economic development go hand in hand. This new Framework recognizes the need to link programs across departments, he said.

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Making Programs Work

Summary of Breakout Discussion 3

Mr. Wade introduced the discussion questions on making programs work. He asked participants to consider overall priorities for funding, identifying the most important. Some issues may be consistent across the country. Funding that is calculated based on population size works well for larger communities; less well for smaller communities. Yet often smaller communities have greater needs and fewer resources.

Mr. Wesley and Ms. O'Neil reported the discussions in their groups.

Participants identified priorities for funding within the current overall budget for Aboriginal economic development.

Participants discussed how to improve the current funding formula.

Mr. Wade noted that this discussion really focused on meeting the needs of the North, and that one of the themes discussed was timeliness: it is important to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they arise; it is not always possible to wait for funding and approval and outside expertise—"You have to shoot the moose when it presents itself." He thanked participants for their insights and introduced the next discussion questions.

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Making Programs Work (Continued)

Summary of Breakout Discussion 4

Facilitators summarized the following results from group discussions:

Participants discussed key elements of good program service standards.

Mr. Mackenzie thanked participants for their contributions and introduced the next session.

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Measuring Success

Ms. O'Neil introduced the discussion questions, saying economic development gives youth something to look forward to. She said success could be measured in many ways.

Summary of Breakout Discussions

Participants listed the following ways to measure success, noting that indicators vary by community:

Participants said there were many ways to report to communities, noting each community has its own process:

Participants suggested how INAC can measure the performance of programs:

Participants discussed how reporting to INAC could be more useful and "user-friendly":

Mr. Mackenzie said success ultimately will mean Aboriginal people and organizations are self-sustaining, and until then, INAC support is needed.

A participant said that the input from all the First Nations was important. They know what is needed to ensure their communities reach their goals and objectives. "We'd like to know how it reflects back in terms of programming; that good decisions are made."

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Review of Engagement Session and Next Steps

Terence Wade

Terence Wade spoke for Mr. Clarke, who was unable to attend this engagement.

He said reports would be sent by email and available on the INAC website. There were many common issues, as well as unique issues by region. The next steps are to consider all the recommendations and to validate options with stakeholders.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will bring recommendations to Cabinet, and once Cabinet decisions have been made, renovation will begin. Some changes can be made right away by INAC, but others take longer, so renovation will be phased in.

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Closing Prayer

Chief Edward Sansgris
Yellowknives Dene First Nation

Chief Edward Sansgris of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation said it was a pleasure to host the engagement session. He said "a Dene law is not to judge people until you've heard from them; we've said our parts; we depart as friends."

He said many issues affect this generation and the next. During this session, people spoke of their concerns for their communities and people. Each First Nation is affected differently. Some things are easier for a community like Dettah, which is close to the capital, than for smaller or more remote communities. Fair distribution of core funding; accountability to First Nations—these are the things the Dene want, Chief Sansgris said.

On the first day, many spoke of devolution. There is a connection here. How will devolution affect programming through INAC and CanNor? First Nations must have power to make decisions. "We need the information about programs and about how money is spent."

Chief Sansgris thanked the community of Dettah for welcoming everyone, and the participants for coming. "We must keep in touch with each other. Everyone has their own ideas and opinions. We may not agree, but we listen, and we have respect for one another."

"Now we have taken part in these important discussions. I hope everything is used, and this report does not sit on a shelf for the next 10 years. Mahsi cho."

Chief Sansgris closed the workshop with a prayer to the beat of the Dene drum.

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List of Participants

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