JEDI hosts Gala Dinner and Plenary focusing on Sustainable Development Opportunities for Aboriginal communities

On June 28th, the Joint Economic Development Initiative Inc. hosted a Gala Dinner and Plenary in Moncton, New Brunswick that focused on Sustainable Development Opportunities.

Two of the key speakers at the event were Troy Jerome, the former Executive Director of Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat (MMS) and Matt Jamieson, CEO of Six Nations Grand River Development Corporation. Troy and Matt showcased the large sustainable development projects currently happening in their First Nations Communities.

Troy Jerome, Executive Director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat (MMS)   

Troy Jerome, Executive Director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat (MMS) 

Troy discussed Renewable Energy & Nation Building; Maximizing Indigenous Benefits. MMS represents the Gesgapegiag, Gespeg, and Listiguij communities. In 2011 the leadership of these 3 communities established the MMS as a political body to pursue their rights and title to Gespe’gewa’gi, meaning the 7th District; the last acquired land of the Mi’gma’gi territory.

Through engagement with Wind Energy Industries, MMS was able to seize the opportunity from the surrounding territory, creating employment through construction and operation of the wind farms in Gaspe. MMS created two primary goals in partnership with Innergex, one was to promote employment for experienced tradespersons in the Wind Power Industry, and the second was to provide training to inexperienced people so that they can find jobs within the industry. The employment goal was to have 100 community members working on site.  There are currently 104 community members employed.

The Mesgi’g Ugju’s’n project involves the construction of wind turbines with a capacity of 150 Megawatts, this will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of approximately 30,000 homes. This is the first partnership that the 3 communities have done.  With a 50% ownership stake it is expected to bring over $200 million in profits over the next 20 years. By becoming organized, thinking strategically and involving the people and communities at all levels this has been a great success for the 3 Mi’gmaq communities.

Left to right: Matt Jamieson, CEO of Six Nations Grand River Development Corporation, Chris Henderson, President of Lumos Clean Energy Advisors, Karen LeBlanc, Senior Project Manager of JEDI and Lynn Poole-Hughes, CEO of JEDI

Left to right: Matt Jamieson, CEO of Six Nations Grand River Development Corporation, Chris Henderson, President of Lumos Clean Energy Advisors, Karen LeBlanc, Senior Project Manager of JEDI and Lynn Poole-Hughes, CEO of JEDI

Matt Jamieson spoke about Building Sustainable Development Projects that work in First Nation Communities. The Six Nations include Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and the Tuscarora, which are Canada’s most populated First Nation with 26,503 members.

In 2010 the Six Nations launched a Development Corporation, and as a result the community was able to embrace the separation of business and politics. The purpose of the Development Corporation was to enable the pursuit of economic opportunities beyond the Six Nation borders, implement governance to control economic development activity with complete separation from politics, and to create and protect tax immunity. Prior to this, the community struggled economically with some challenges such as the election cycle, lack of business focus, failure to conduct proper due diligence, and no strategy for change.

To move forward with their vision they needed to look internally at their leadership and came up with 5 key ingredients of control for the elected council:

  1. The entity must be capable of efficiently partnering and organized to conduct business;
  2. The entity must be organized to mitigate exposure to corporate and employment tax;
  3. The entity must provide asset protection for the community, so no one person is liable;
  4. The entity must provide a broad based net positive economic impact; and,
  5. Operations must provide the highest degree of transparency and accountability to the people.

The Six Nations also developed a 20 year comprehensive community plan, an economic leakage study, a community engagement model, and a “We Gather our Voices” report.

In line with a preparedness strategy, board of directors, advisory committee, board of trustees, and the elected council, Six Nations were able to strategically move forward on a number of joint ventures with such partners as Aecon, Samsung, Brant, and Borlax, over the past few years. To date, 34 sustainable development projects, stemming from solar and wind farm initiatives have been undertaken and have produced over 900 Megawatts of energy (some projects are detailed at: Seizing the opportunity in the Renewable Energy Industry aligned perfectly with the community values of sustainability and environmental prosperity, while still providing economic growth for the community and its members.

It was as pleasure to hear these two passionate, dynamic speakers at the plenary.  Looking back, one theme between the two highlighted speakers, Matt Jamieson and Troy Jerome, was the importance of community.  Both stressed that having the entire community participate at every level was key to the success of these many projects. Providing ownership to each community empowered them to achieve great things. All great information and take-aways for anyone, especially First Nation communities looking to seize opportunities in the Renewable Energy Industry!

Sara Tennant, Aboriginal Labour Market Information Research Analyst, will be a regular contributor to the JEDI blog. From Sussex, New Brunswick, Sara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography and Environmental Studies, with a specialization in Aboriginal Studies from Mount Allison University, and a Master of Arts (with distinction) degree, focused on Aboriginal Geography, from the University of Prince Edward Island.  She is excited to continue researching topics that she is passionate about, while sharing labour market information which will help First Nations, industry, and government recognize the potential that lies in the Aboriginal workforce.

Cecelia Paul, Aboriginal Labour Market Initiative Assistant

Cecelia Paul, Aboriginal Labour Market Initiative Assistant, will be a regular contributor to the JEDI blog. From St. Mary’s First Nation, Cecelia graduated with her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2011. Upon completion she worked with JEDI on a number of different projects as a Project Officer, and then in the past year worked on the NBAMET Project as client coordinator. During her time at JEDI she also obtained her Technical Aboriginal Economic Developer Certificate (TAED) with CANDO, and a certificate in Human Resource Management with UNB.