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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.
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.
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.
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).
Regional Director General, Northwest Territories
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
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:
Opportunity-ready Aboriginal communities and a stable, efficient investment climate
Viable, competitive Aboriginal businesses
A skilled Aboriginal workforce to take advantage of growing economic opportunities
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.
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.
Mr. Wade said the Framework has five strategic priorities:
Strengthen Aboriginal entrepreneurship by getting rid of regulatory barriers and increasing access to capital
Develop Aboriginal human capital—in engagements across the country, Aboriginal people have called for INAC to work with HRSDC to provide specific skills development
Enhance the value of Aboriginal assets through a more systematic approach to opportunities and greater capacity in communities
Forge effective partnerships between Aboriginal governments, provinces and territories, and the private sector
Focus the role of the federal government—link spending to real opportunities and ensure coordination within government programs
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.
Mr. Wade outlined the key drivers that will guide program renovation:
The new Federal Framework
The Treasury Board Policy and Directive on Transfer Payments and new approaches that are proportionate to risk and more flexible
CanNor, a new agency for the North
Results of past audits, evaluations, and action plans
Changing economic conditions and unique needs of Aboriginal peoples
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."
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.
Aboriginal entrepreneurship: supporting Aboriginal financial institutions, promoting access to equity and debt financing, supporting small and medium business, developing major resources
Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business (PSAB)
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 for program renovation are to
Build on success
Respond to unique needs of stakeholders
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:
Harmonization: reduce the overall number of programs and simplify the application process; create programs that really serve communities.
Flexibility: ensure the unique needs of regions, communities, and nations are met.
Accessibility: ensure that all stakeholders have information and access.
Risk management: move to a realistic assessment of risk based on specific projects, recipients, and communities. In recent years, as a result of low risk tolerance, some projects are refused because of an element of risk, and reporting for projects that are accepted is cumbersome. First Nations are required to front-end monies and get reimbursed later, which is often not possible.
Performance measurement: base reporting on results compared with community plans.
Reduced reporting burdens: more reliance on existing reporting tools such as recipient audits.
Partnerships and linkages: forge relationships among departments, governments, First Nations, and the private sector.
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:
INAC bureaucrats do not have the expertise and experience in areas such as financing or land management to meet the needs of Aboriginal economic development.
Communities need stable and reliable infrastructure.
INAC needs to be transparent regarding decisions, and accountable to stakeholders. "This has come up a lot," said Mr. Wade. INAC needs to be a proactive supporter, not a reactive gatekeeper.
Programs must be flexible and differentiated. Communities and First Nations must not be cut off from funds because of constrained eligibility requirements.
Multi-year, stable, and predictable funding should be put in place, and conditions on funding should be proportionate to risk. "We've also been hearing this loud and clear from engagements across the country."
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.
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:
The loan program through MDDF, owned by the Denendeh Development Corporation (DDC) and the Métis Development Corporation (MDC), is working.
Community Economic Development Officers are important assets. An Economic Development Officer (EDO) in or near a community can provide information about programming, but they are not present in all communities.
Access to Capital (ATC) seems to be assisting some Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs); this could be expanded to include other organizations such as development corporations.
Some regions have had success with the Community Economic Opportunities Program (CEOP); this program is "excellent once a project study is completed," said a participant.
Flexible transfer payments work.
Participants expressed frustration in a number of areas:
No true government-to-government relationship
Aboriginal governments should control funding decisions. First Nations should decide where the funding should go, such as to MDDF.
With devolution, control over resources and economic development programs should be with First Nations and in the NWT. Currently bureaucracy absorbs so much time and money that there is little left for implementation.
Even where land claims are in place, agreements are not implemented to negotiated terms: Aboriginal people are not seeing the economic benefits. "Chrétien said in 1971 that 'any resources from the NWT should first benefit Aboriginal peoples,'" said a participant.
Lack of accountability from INAC
Just as communities are accountable for their program dollars, INAC needs to be accountable to communities. "INAC needs to follow through on their fiduciary obligations."
Funding does not reflect the actual cost of doing business in Northern communities with very little infrastructure. Freight costs and high energy costs can make it very difficult for small businesses such as arts and crafts or bed and breakfast businesses.
Funding is inadequate for developing infrastructure or major projects.
$2.6 million for economic development for the entire NWT is not enough; the Government of NWT provides $50 million to the territorial Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
Lack of information about programs
A significant problem identified by participants is lack of communication about the programs. Participants were not aware of many of the programs. INAC needs to ensure the information is available and accessible to the people it is meant to benefit. Information is needed about the programs available, the application process, types of projects that the program has funded (success stories), and who can access the programs. This information should be provided to band managers, development corporations, and other community stakeholders. Technology, print media, workshops, community forums, and other methods should be used to get the word out.
EDOs are needed in every community to help groups access programs. Only a local person can understand the needs of the specific communities.
Organizations need clear information about the amount of funding available and who can apply. One table recommended separate funds for Inuit, Métis, and First Nations rather than one lump sum. People will not apply unless they have a reasonable expectation their proposal will be accepted.
The roles of INAC and CanNor need to be clearly defined.
INAC staff rarely visit communities. Local help with lining proposals up with program requirements would be beneficial.
Inequities in program accessibility
Programs often work for organizations that already have things going for them, but do not work where they are needed most. If mining or tourism associations want to put strategies together, government is more likely to work with them, participants said.
Community needs are not clearly identified or prioritized. Funding must be targeted to meet actual needs in the communities.
Groups may be blacklisted for failing in one area. Even when an organization changes and many aspects are going well, accessing funds becomes even more difficult than before and "getting out of the hole" becomes nearly impossible.
The programs seem to have a southern focus, and to lean towards a reserve system.
Program funding based on band population does not always work. Funding does not take into account specific community needs. The frustration level is rising in communities that do not receive funding from the diamond mines.
Issues with timing and lack of flexibility
Timing is also a problem because there may be months of waiting before a project is accepted; this can lead to missed opportunities.
Cash flow while waiting for an answer is a huge problem. Applications get tied up in bureaucracy.
The application process needs to "keep up with the speed of business."
The March 31 fiscal year end is a challenge given the construction season. Any money left over is clawed back, and there are no rewards or incentives for efficiency.
Sometimes conditions change within the duration of a project: "If you do something differently than what you said you would do [even with good results], they cut your funding back," said a participant.
Cumbersome application and reporting processes
The application process is a huge barrier. Making an application requires time and money and capacity. "If you want to act on a business opportunity, you don't have time to wait for approval on a project."
People will not apply unless they have a reasonable expectation their proposal will be accepted. Clear information is needed about the amount of funding available and how targeted the funds are (Inuit, Métis, and First Nations; North/South).
The requirement for a business plan prior to submitting, audits, delays in approvals, and delays in sending funding can discourage businesses from submitting proposals. One corporation doesn't apply to programs other than the CEDP.
When an approval does go through, the business must spend money and then get it reimbursed. This can be a big challenge.
Administration is difficult when limited services are available. For example, there may be no auditors in a community, and not getting an audit on time can prevent a project from receiving next year's funding. The reporting mechanism is cumbersome, and current measurements may not accurately assess the project.
Applications cause cash flow problems. The time required to write a new proposal takes away from other ongoing projects. Reporting requirements also put a strain on inadequate resources. Proponents must work for free or find other partners simply to make an application.
Several tables said multi-year block funding would simplify the application process and address the cash flow problem, as well as helping with timing issues.
Lack of support for capacity-building
While there is support for hiring consultants, there is no support for building capacity within the community. There are no funds to hire and train local workers.
Programs should include funding for developing business plans and for management support and training.
Economic development cannot occur without the right labour, and many communities experience social problems that limit their capacity. "I don't see funds where we can hire someone to help our employees. We get stuck losing good employees to social problems, but we can't help them because we don't have enough funds of our own." A lot of people will not get help or treatment, because then they will not be able to feed their families.
Lack of long-term holistic planning
Communities need long-term holistic strategic planning—economic development, social wellness, and community development all fit together. Programs should consider community projects not only through an economic lens.
Only with holistic planning will the cycle of dependency be broken. "We have beautiful land, being polluted…now we can't fish or drink the water... We have suffered and gone through a lot," said one participant. "Our youth are in dire need of healing, education, and training to foster capacity," said another. Holistic planning considers the social problems in communities. "We want to help our own employees when they are in treatment so they do not have to quit their jobs." There are no funds enabling companies to hire a social worker.
Lack of support for traditional economy
Programs should support people to make their livelihood on the land. Traditional activities bring both social and economic benefits to communities. This could bring more youth on the land, enabling them to gain confidence, traditional knowledge, and pride in their heritage.
Permits need to consider all who use the land so a company cannot take away a person's livelihood.
Aboriginal Business Canada (ABC, formerly run out of Industry Canada) is not working. "The hoops you have to go through to access money—nobody's been successful."
Access to Capital (ATC): seems to be assisting Aboriginal financial institutions (AFIs), but should be broadened to allow development corporations to apply.
The Loan Loss Reserve Program (LLR) is not available to all Aboriginal groups, like the Métis Dene Development Fund (MDDF). National banks received $15 million for this program and distributed only $3 million. This program seems to work well in the South, but not to benefit the North. Participants want access to this program.
Community Economic Development Program (CEDP) is underfunded. While people are able to review possibilities for business ventures, they cannot put a business plan together. There is not enough funding for consultants.
Community Economic Opportunities Program (CEOP) has limited funding for review and evaluation of opportunities that would ensure successful business ventures.
Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP): Keep funding in the North. "When ABDP funding goes to Ottawa, it's lost," said a participant. With devolution, control over resources and economic development programs should be with First Nations and in the NWT. Currently bureaucracy absorbs so much time and money that little is left for implementation.
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:
The frustration of making applications only to find funds are not available
The lack of transparency of budgets
The concern that INAC is not aware of real conditions in communities
The lack of information and communication about programs and proposals
Slow turn-around time for approvals
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.
Innovative Program Options–Lands and Economic Development
Summary of Breakout Discussion 2
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 offered some ideas on what was working well, although most agreed that programs that were working well for some might not be working well for others.
Bands that have knowledge of the programs have done well with them.
In general, participants appreciated programs that provided some flexibility, communication between INAC and recipients, and opportunities for networking.
Aspects of Access to Capital (ATC) are working well, but it should be available to other organizations than AFIs.
CEDP funding seemed straightforward, with good communication with staff, one participant said.
Participants discussed how programs could address barriers to economic development:
Give Northern Aboriginals control over decision-making for funding Northern projects. People who really understand life in the communities should have full say. Northern stimulus dollars must benefit Aboriginal people.
Support comprehensive community planning for land and resource development, protected area strategies, and clean-up of contaminated sites. Land use planning should be co-ordinated between communities and regions. Plans must be recognized by governments. Long-term planning with a focus on future development can give youth reasons to stay in the community, or to return after getting an education.
Ensure adequate funding and multi-year funding for large scale projects in the NWT. Infrastructure such as transportation is needed for economic development. Some regions have done well constructing roads, highways, and buildings. A major concern throughout is that funding is insufficient.
Streamline programming. Funding programs are often fragmented, resulting in duplication and excess administration costs.
Encourage joint ventures. CSSP could be tapped into to enhance joint ventures.
Participants discussed how programs could better support differing capacity development:
Link employment with training. Programs like AHRDA (Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreement), currently being replaced by ASETS (Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Agency), and other training initiatives, although not controlled by INAC, are important for economic development. Many people receive training through organizations such as the Mine Training Society, but there is not a full commitment to employment. First Nations should have more say on the boards that guide training programs.
Include a training component in projects where outside consultants are hired. Training should enable people to control and maintain structures in their community. CanNor should focus on Aboriginal people. If a southern consultant is hired to do the work and leave, then there is no new capacity in the community.
Address the lack of information about programs. Be clear about which programs are under CanNor. Provide information to AFIs and CFDCs (Community Financial Development Corporations) because they can help other Aboriginal businesses and organizations access funding. Ensure Economic Development Officers know the full range of programs, and that every community has access to an EDO. Give examples of the types of projects and businesses funded. Be innovative; use available technologies (although some communities have inadequate Internet access).
Empower people through communication. Better inter-personal relations are needed between INAC staff and communities. Sometimes INAC does not return phone calls. Rules must be clear, simple, and consistent; materials should be written in a way that is accessible. INAC should create a course about programs and initiatives. Support EDOs to support communities.
Support the traditional economy. Have trappers' and Elders' assistance funds. This would not only enhance economic development, but also health and wellness in communities. An Elder said: "I have not been to school, but I have great knowledge of the land . . . We need money for the youth to go out on the land."
Support youth and people with disabilities. Any development of human resources must engage the youth. Provide seed money for youth.
Incorporate gender equality into the renovated programs. Women face additional barriers in starting and maintaining a business, including finding reliable childcare and accessing finances. A participant said a husband may need to co-sign a loan. When the people in power are men, this can be a challenge for women starting a business. "Women are the lowest priority for funding and resources," the participant said. Money does not trickle down from the Native Women's Association of Canada to the NWT.
Participants discussed how programs can support the way treaty holders do business.
Eliminate the funding cap. "When people should be united, they are fighting for the same pot of money."
Recognize community land use plans when they are in place, and use them as a basis for economic development.
Recognize First Nations, who need a closer relationship with other departments, governments, and the UN. "If we are truly a First Nation, we need to act that way, and we need to be recognized as such."
Be accountable to Aboriginal people. Participants called for an overall review of INAC and how the federal government is fulfilling its fiduciary obligations. Accountability should not flow only from program recipients to INAC, but from INAC to Aboriginal people. When a development project happens on traditional land, how do Aboriginals benefit? The population of the North is 50% Aboriginal but most of the benefits from NWT economic development flow to non-Aboriginal people.
Make programs accessible in the North. Many of the programs are tailored to Aboriginal groups in the south or on Reserves. CanNor programs need to be focused on Aboriginal people.
Recognize languages. Languages are very important to First Nations people. While Tlicho is recognized, Weledeh is not. "Knowledge and recognition of all our languages, historical land use, migratory routes—all this is the foundation for healthy communities where economic development can take place."
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.
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.
Develop human resources; build capacity. This is essential as communities achieve self-government. Communities need more skilled workers, such as bookkeepers and other qualified resources, for economic development and self-sustainability. On-the-job training should be enabled, and capacity should be built to lead to employment, and the ability both to create and to take advantage of opportunities.
Remove false barriers to employment. Recognize that people already have a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experience not tied to formal education.
Provide funding for community assets and infrastructure so that communities are prepared for economic development. Comprehensive community plans are needed. Fund organizations to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Give priority to Northern Aboriginal businesses for major project development.
Provide long-term multi-year stable funding that will allow for long-term planning. This will allow communities to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, rather than have to apply for funding while an opportunity comes and goes. "You have to shoot the moose when it is there; you can't go back to your community and wait for approval!" said one participant.
Provide funding for youth, women, and individual business owners. Sometimes band-owned businesses compete with individual owners. Participants called for flexibility within programs to encourage joint ventures.
Allow communities to determine their own priorities by making funding more broad and flexible.
Participants discussed how to improve the current funding formula.
Provide a "base" level of funding for all communities. Additional funding should consider the high costs of living and doing business in remote communities.
Keep First Nations informed on INAC spending with a community-based liaison person. INAC should report to communities on the amount of funding available and how it is allocated.
Reduce the paperwork involved in reporting requirements and application processes.
Do not eliminate communities where the need is greatest. The current policy on suspension makes it nearly impossible for a community to make its way out of difficulty. If a group fails in one area, then all funds are suspended and they cannot move forward.
Update population information. When funding is based on population, the information needs to be accurate. For example, one community of 1,500 receives funding more appropriate for a population of 1,000.
Métis must be identified to receive funding.
Make more opportunities for procurement available to Northern organizations.
No "one size fits all" formula is possible for additional funding. Communities are isolated and the economy is largely resource-based, so each community has unique challenges and opportunities. Funding needs to be community-specific, and could be based on need, on past projects, and/or on current opportunities.
Ensure communities are aware of all funding programs to help communities determine which programs meet their needs.
Some participants were in favour of a single entity or sole source of funding. Not all agreed on this point.
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.
Facilitators summarized the following results from group discussions:
Participants discussed how programs could be improved to support timely decision making. "The speed of business is the opposite of what INAC is doing right now; we wait months and months for answers," a participant said. "There is a real cash flow problem when you have to spend the money before you get it."
Multi-year, block funding will mean less time and energy spent on proposals, and also eliminate cash-flow problems. One participant suggested that INAC should offer an accessible pool of funds that communities could allocate as opportunities arise.
Northern Aboriginal people should have control of how dollars are allocated in the North. Local decision-making would enhance communication, understanding, and respect between government representatives and the community, and would speed up the process. Local people are often aware of needs and issues that otherwise an applicant is required to prove.
Once decisions are made, funding should be provided with no delay. "We know the Treasury Board can make some things happen fast."
Funding should be administered through Northern agencies that are more responsive, such as the Métis Dene Development Fund (MDDF), which administers Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) dollars. Transfer equity to the MDDF or other Aboriginal organizations. Loan Loss Reserve Program funds should be put in Aboriginal Capital Corporations, not in national banks. However, a participant raised a concern that when programming money comes into a community through a development corporation, the funds do not benefit individual business owners.
Funding for corporate business plans, for feasibility studies, and for infrastructure would greatly facilitate the speed of business. "Economic development would skyrocket," said a participant.
"The land hasn't changed. It can still provide for us." The resources are there. Funds need to be available so that people can respond to opportunities.
Participants discussed key elements of good program service standards.
Communication and support are critical: clarify eligibility criteria, application processes, and reporting requirements. Explain programs and provide examples of the kinds of projects that have been funded in the past. Facilitate dialogue with INAC so organizations know their proposal is likely to be funded before investing too much time and energy in it.
Communities need to work closely with EDOs to identify funding programs that fit their needs and priorities.
Focus on results rather than policies. The goal is to help First Nations move forward. If there is a problem in one area, assess lessons learned and take that into the next project. But suspending all funds is counter-productive.
Reflect the actual cost of living and doing business in isolated Northern communities.
Participants said program renovation could better link and combine existing programs.
Eliminate duplication and fragmentation. With many different departments, administration and overhead costs go up, and less money is available for programming.
Work with other departments; think holistically. The programs should reflect the connection between the social and physical health of the land and community, and economic development.
Currently only a small portion of overall spending in the North goes to economic development compared with social development, but the two go hand in hand. People are the most valuable resource. With no economic development, people, especially youth, leave the communities.
Participants said processes and programs must change to support the way land-claim holders operate. "Treaty 11 is a solemn document between the Queen and the Dehcho Dene. The Dene have not agreed to a Treaty of Cession; it is a treaty of peace and friendship. The government needs to recognize that they are a support agency and not owners of the lands and resources, and change their programs to support the Aboriginal people and their desires," a participant said.
First Nations should control and benefit from economic development on their land, be compensated for damage to the land, and get the contracts to clean up contaminated sites. Instead, southerners profit from the resources and get the clean-up contracts. Natural resources are taken from First Nations land, and damage is left behind. A participant gave the example of Giant gold mine: "There is arsenic stored in our backyard; we're not allowed to drink the water . . . What if the mine broke, leaked arsenic down the Mackenzie Valley?"
INAC should relate to First Nations on a government-to–government basis.
Dene people have rights and knowledge that no one else has. They need the tools to fully implement treaty agreements.
Mr. Mackenzie thanked participants for their contributions and introduced the next session.
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:
More jobs created and reduced unemployment for Aboriginal people
Wealth and wellness in the community
Traditional practices and values strong
Healthy youth and improved school graduation—indicators of long-term success
Businesses profitable; higher equity; less dependence on funding
More leverage: ability to secure funding and make things happen
Participants said there were many ways to report to communities, noting each community has its own process:
Newsletters, newspaper, communication from board members, websites, council meetings, assemblies, and more
Participants suggested how INAC can measure the performance of programs:
Number of successful applications and completed programs
Applications fit the programs
Reduced time for project approval and disbursement of funds
Participants discussed how reporting to INAC could be more useful and "user-friendly":
Simplify the reports and the reporting schedule. Audits and results of program implementation should be sufficient as a form of reporting.
Be flexible. Allow projects to respond to changing situations.
There should be a self-evaluation and "lessons learned" component.
Confirm reports sent and received.
Accept reports in NWT languages.
Provide samples of successful reports.
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."
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.
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.