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Engagement Session with the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network

May 3 – Saskatchewan

The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan team met with representatives from the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network.

During the session, the representatives identified these social issues, which absorb the majority of the resources in Northern Saskatchewan communities, as critically needing to be addressed:

  • Safe and affordable housing, drinking water, affordable food and energy costs

Other issues of importance were raised, including:

  • The lack of hands-on training opportunities in local communities
  • The lack of understanding of the mining industry
    • Young people have a vague and perhaps outdated understanding of what the mining industry is and what it entails
  • Unequal opportunities and benefits
    • First Nations communities should all have the same opportunities when it comes to making benefit agreements
  • First Nations representation and understanding
    • Resource projects often include hearings where decisions are made without community input
  • Absence of resource-revenue sharing
    • Saskatchewan should follow Ontario's lead with regard to sharing a percentage of its resources revenue with First Nations peoples
  • Saskatchewan first
    • Saskatchewan resources should be processed in the province, and not externally
  • The need for core infrastructure
    • Access to infrastructure is critical, particularly regarding a northern corridor, to affordable housing and to safe communities is required
  • Treaties and lands
    • Reconciliation is a good start, but issues concerning the Natural Resources Transfer Act and moratoriums against development on reserves need to be addressed
  • Opportunities for First Nations
    • First Nations communities need opportunities, not handouts

Representatives expanded on all the above-listed issues and suggested actions, including:

  • Appropriate First Nations representation
    • First Nations need an Indigenous representative who has been to the communities, at project hearings and in major associations
    • Traditional knowledge and science must be given equal weight
  • First Nations regulatory body
    • First Nations representatives with knowledge of the mining industry and regulatory environments should form a group
    • This grass-root group would share with First Nations communities its knowledge on treaties, negotiation of agreements with industry, environmental protection and monitoring, and identification of best practices
    • This group would help ensure that all communities are provided the same opportunities
  • Acknowledging the treaties
    • Honouring agreements ensures First Nations communities can manage on their own
    • Natural resource rights should be relinquished in treaties
  • Mobile or satellite education and training
    • Tactile training opportunities need to be accessible in communities where young people are the most important resource
    • Mobile or satellite training centres should be Indigenous driven and controlled
    • Training must be done in partnership with industry and based on needs
  • Community inventory of skill assets
    • A database for each community outlining existing qualifications should be developed
    •  This database would facilitate the hiring process and assist communities in undertaking strategic planning for training and skills needs
  • Looking back before looking ahead
    • Case studies on mining communities in the last 40 years, showing the positives and the negatives, should be conducted
    • Knowledge from that past experience would constitute the foundation of the future in mining
  • Cleaner mining practices
    • As resources are not finite and products are leaching into water, safety nets need to be put in place
    • Social licenses to operate should be required
  • Investing in First Nations communities
    • The Government should task industries to invest in services in First Nations communities (e.g., roads, healthcare)
  • Access to financing
    • The needs for a national one-stop process for economic development funding to First Nations
    • Improving the current process is required to make it less complex, easily accessible and less time-consuming
  • Participation of First Nations communities
    • Communities need to be engaged at every step of the process, including being involved in trade missions