CCDF reflects on 20 years of Métis economic development
- Chelsea Laskowski | October 16, 2017
The Clarence Campeau Development Fund had its 20-year anniversary this summer, and has left those who helped build it looking back at its humble beginnings. The Fund had been established in 1997 through an Agreement between the Métis Nation and the Province of Saskatchewan to provide equity and Financing for Métis entrepreneurs and communities.
In July of 1998 Roland Duplessis was hired as the CEO and began working from a small office in the Métis Nation building. Duplessis and the Board immediately began developing and delivering programs that were responsive to the needs of the Métis business community in Saskatchewan. After working for 12 years in economicdevelopment with the Saskatchewan Economic Development Corp. and 7 years as the Economic Development Advisor for the Métis Nation of Alberta, Duplessis was well-equipped to understand what was required to support economic development for Metis people and communities in the province. “I simply told the board that there is a serious lack of equity capital in our communities. Our people have the technical skills to operate businesses, they just don’t have the money required to attract conventional financing. They need business planning assistance and business support and training.”
Duplessis, was a perfect fit for an organization that had a mandate to “improve the economic circumstances of Saskatchewan’s Métis.”
In 2001 the Fund was legislated under the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporations Act and a new operating “Agreement” was signed in 2002 between the Métis Nation and the Province. CCDF is now a Crown Agency for the purpose of the Provincial Auditors Act. The Fund is recognized as Canadas leading Métis Financial Institution.
The CCDF has come a long way from when Duplessis started: It now has two full offices in Saskatoon and Regina with 13 staff. A 20th anniversary gala in mid-September brought together some of CCDF’s pioneers with the Métis communities and entrepreneurs it has helped guide over the years. Among them was current CCDF CEO Pam Larson, who took over from Duplessis in January after working there for seven years, most recently as the director of finance and administration.
The money they invest has a 15-fold economic and social benefit, Larson says, “meaning it improves the living standards of the Métis people, health services, educational opportunities and community services.”
CCDF has been essential to groups like Pinehouse Business North, a civil and earth-moving contractor with the uranium mining industry. After Pinehouse Business North, which is the economic arm of the northern village, accessed CCDF’s interest-free loans their business relationship continued on, says president Mike Natomagan.
Duplessis considers CCDF to be a “cradle to grave” organization, where they offer financing, business planning, research and development, and even help clients fill out forms and paperwork.
Most importantly for Natomagan, who is also Pinehouse’s mayor and President of Kineepik Metis Local, they’ve been able to create more employment in a community that Duplessis says has really turned things around over the years.
“They mean everything to us. That’s one of the things, as a proud Métis, that’s one of the flags that we can wave, is CCDF,” Natomagan says.
Pinehouse and eight other Métis communities are part of a five-year pilot project that Duplessis is heading called the Métis Community Capacity Strategy, which started this January. The idea is to work with each community to do governance training, identify potential economic projects, and do feasibility analysis together rather than the past process of relying on each community to do that themselves.
The strategy’s work has gone unfunded by the federal government, despite the Supreme Court’s Daniels decision which recognizes Métis people as “Indians” and puts more responsibility on the feds to treat them as such. Larson says in response to the ruling, Canada is choosing a government-to-government relationship where they provide money directly to Métis Nations and from there the current priorities are health, education and housing -- not economic development.
Larson says in her new position, she will be lobbying for the feds to see the economic benefits and self-reliance that CCDF’s programs have for Métis people. In CCDF’s future, she sees an opportunity to match outgoing business owners with entrepreneurs who can buy the company, to spread the word about what CCDF has to offer to Métis people, to train Métis businesses on how to bid on contracts, and to host forums for Métis entrepreneurs.
After an initial 20 years in business that has consistently been full of growth, she says CCDF shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.