Reconciliation focus of economic development conference
- EFN Staff | May 08, 2018
Two innovative partnerships were honoured at the Intersections for Growth Conference in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance (SEDA) and the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network (SFNEDN) recently co-hosted the event to demonstrate the interdependence between rural, urban and First Nations communities in Saskatchewan. Featuring 30 presenters over two days, the conference aimed to inspire professionals and leaders to be early adopters, capitalizing on the trends and opportunities ahead of the curve to maintain healthy, vibrant communities and regions.
The conference started with Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark and Neil Sasakamoose, Executive Director of Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs, and Jim Puffalt, the City Manager in North Battleford, exploring economic development as a bridge to reconciliation.
The inaugural Economic Development Reconciliation and Partnership awards were presented during this session. According to SFNEDN Executive Director Shaun Soonias, the awards were the highlight of the conference. Sponsored by Affinity Credit Union, BATC and the City of North Battleford won for their economic partnership to improve employment for BATC members with the City and Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation and the Twin Rivers Planning District won for their partnership to work on regional waste management issues.
“I think what we saw was the beginnings of our First Nations and municipalities realizing that they can partner together. What was important were the awards that SDDA and the Network did together with our partnership and reconciliation awards,” said Soonias. “What came out of that as a foundation for the start of the conference was to see viable ways that our Municipalities First Nations are partnering together. Whether that’s learning how to communicate more effectively or planning around regional economic development, there are lots of ways to intersect.”
Chief Roy Petit of Beardy’s says the award reinforces the work they are doing in their region.
“I think this is an acknowledgement of the work we have been doing together with the Twin Rivers group and Beardy’s and Okemasis and we are hoping that it will create more partnerships between First Nations and the rural communities, RM’s and towns,” said Chief Petit. “We never really talked together about regional issues. We just dealt with our own problems and that’s the way it was. We were brought together through the FCMCIPP Federation of Canadian Municipalities Community Infrastructure Partnership Program.”
They intend to work together to manage solid waste in the region. But that is just the start of the work to be done together.
“There were lots of silos and when this all came about, our leaders, Mayor Denis Helman and Chief Roy met and Twin Rivers came together and this is the outcome,” said Kate Kading, a councillor with the Town of Rosthern. “Mayor Denis and Chief Roy are strong leaders and they pull along the rest of council and then the council filters down into the community. At the possibilities, your mind just boggles. Building relationships in municipalities is important. When people come together we can solve problems together. The signing agreement was our first step.”
Myrna Hewitt, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Research at Affinity says the awards fit nicely with their vision as a Credit Union.
“We are interested in bringing attention to reconciliation work in our communities. This is the way we are going to form partnerships. That’s the basis of reconciliation. Economic development, social development, all of these things are important to move forward. Call to Action 92 is about employment and partnerships and it is about listening and learning the history and legacy of the residential schools. Any kind of cooperation or joint ventures will bring about learning on both sides and we will build a better world. Which is our vision at Affinity,” said Hewitt.
The diverse program of sessions included info on the socio-economic impact of legalizing recreational cannabis, airships in Northern Saskatchewan and a key note by John McArthur of Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation on the First Nation Community Navigator Program and how it contributes to comprehensive community planning in Saskatchewan First Nations.
Chief Roy Petit summed up the movement to partnerships and reconciliation from the conference.
“This goes back to treaty. When we signed, we agreed to share the land and those resources that come from it,” added Chief Petit. “This is going back to try and build those relationships from that level…we are taking the step to assert our sovereignty and to work with those close to us to build those bridges.”