First Nations Innovation and Success: First Nations Leading the Way II
About 30 years have passed since First Nation communities started reflecting on their fiscal relationship and came together to develop legislative frameworks for First Nation jurisdictions outside of the Indian Act. Now, almost 300 First Nations from all regions in Canada are either participating or signatory to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA) and the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (FAFNLM).
The second-annual national meeting, First Nations Leading the Way II, was held on May 28-30, 2019. It took place in the Tsuut’ina Nation territory at the Westin Calgary Hotel in Calgary, Alta.
Hosted by the FMA fiscal institutions and the Lands Advisory Board (LAB), the meeting brought those almost 300 First Nations together to demonstrate how First Nations governments across Canada are exercising their jurisdiction and striving to move beyond the Indian Act with First Nation-led initiatives. It showcased many success stories, including several First Nations that are at the forefront of expanding and asserting jurisdiction. The presentations highlighted achievements in using First Nation-led agreements and legislation to improve their economies through greater fiscal independence, improved financial management, debenture financing, and sound land governance.
The objectives of the conference were to bring innovative and creative First Nations leaders together to share institutional tools and support services, learn about First Nations success stories working outside of the Indian Act, unify a collective voice for First Nations-led initiatives and innovations, and set a clear path forward for building prosperous and vibrant First Nation communities.
The conference had more than 415 delegates from more than 125 FMA and / or FNLMA First Nations communities across the country.
Building on the positive feedback from the inaugural national meeting in 2018, the 2019 event saw many participants comment that it was a great mix of speakers, communities showcased and topics that were relevant and current.
The event featured several influential presentations, engaging panel discussions, thought-provoking films, interactive multimedia encouraging attendee participation and a monumental signing of a protocol agreement between the fiscal institutions and LAB. Click here to view the full agenda.
The presenters included influential leaders of the host institutions — namely, C.T. Manny Jules (Chief Commissioner of the FNTC), Harold Calla (Executive Chair of the FNFMB), Ernie Daniels (President & CEO of the FNFA), and Robert Louie (Chairman of the LAB), as well as Howard Grant (Councillor for Musqueam Nation). There were also panels for each of the FNTC, FMB, FNFA, LAB and FNII.
Other highlights from the conference included:
An exciting and uplifting opening presentation from Chief Christian Sinclair, Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Chief Sinclair referred to some of the successes in his community — including going from near bankruptcy to a record surplus in recent years, while implementing tools available as a result of First Nation-led legislation.
“We want to break the shackles of the Indian Act.” – Chief Christian Sinclair, Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
“It becomes an exercise in self-government. We have to do what is right on the ground with our resources.” – Chief Christian Sinclair, Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
A special guest for this year’s national meeting, Cris Stainbrook, President of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, from Little Canada, Minn., United States. Mr. Stainbrook spoke about the differences between the U.S. and Canadian systems, and the ways in which Canadian First Nations are leading the way.
“Tribes are sovereign nations. If you look at the court records, tribes are sovereign nations. If you look at the congressional record, tribes are sovereign nations.” – Cris Stainbrook, Indian Land Tenure Foundation.
Allan Claxton and Jason Calla of the FNII Development Board discussed the details of the proposed new infrastructure institution.
“Economic development and taxation are key to infrastructure.” – Allan Claxton, FNII Development Board.
There was a panel for each of the host institutions:
First Nations Finance Authority panel, facilitated by Frank Busch (Nisichawayasihk), with Don Morin (Enoch Cree Nation), Chief Dennis Meeches (Long Plain First Nation) and Donna Morin (Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation) spoke about the opportunities their First Nations were able to benefit from by choosing to become FNFA-borrowing members. After lengthy land negotiations and community-driven planning initiatives, they were able to access long-term capital financing to fund priority projects and other services on First Nation lands.
“Independence is going to come from economic development.” – Don Morin, Enoch Cree Nation.
“We are creating a huge economic impact in Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg.” – Chief Dennis Meeches, Long Plain First Nation.
”If we want positive change, we have to let the communities create the rules themselves.” – Donna Morin, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.
First Nations Financial Management Board panel, facilitated by Brian Titus (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in), with Chief Billy Morin (Enoch Cree Nation), Melissa Bryan (Micmacs of Gesgapegiag) and Lorelei Moreau (Chapleau Cree First Nation) talked about the importance of community support, financial transparency and investor certainty. The panelists also spoke to their experiences of the process and institutional support involved in attaining financial management certification through the FMB.
“Our strategic plan allows us to be on the same page, growing in the same direction.” – Melissa Bryan, Micmacs of Gesgapegiag.
”We’re a good investment — $100 million in external investment attracted to Enoch since working with FMB.” – Chief Billy Morin, Enoch Cree Nation.
First Nations Tax Commission panel, facilitated by Trenton Paul (FNTC), with Craig Brown (Wasauksing First Nation), Gilbert Eagle Bear (Tsuut’ina Nation) and Chief David Jimmie (Squiala First Nation) discussed the process of joining the FMA, their experiences operating a taxation system and the benefits of First Nation tax jurisdiction and fiscal power.
“Take the time to create relationships with your taxpayers. Think about long-term benefits.” – Craig Brown, Wasauksing First Nation.
“Tax laws provided by the FNTC are clear, concise and easy to follow.” – Gilbert Eagle Bear, Tsuut’ina Nation.
“Gather as many neighbouring First Nations together and work collectively.” – Chief David Jimmie, Squiala First Nation.
Lands Advisory Board panel, facilitated by Leah George-Wilson (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), with Tania Solonas (McLeod Lake Indian Band), Anthony Laforge (Magnetawan First Nation) and Dalyn Bear (Whitecap Dakota First Nation) discussed their experiences as Land-Code First Nations and operating outside of the Indian Act land management framework.
“After Land Code, our community consultations require a high threshold of voters.” – Tania Solonas, McLeod Lake Indian Band.
“We did not inherit this land from our ancestors. We are borrowing it from our great grand-children.” – Anthony LaForge, Magnetawan First Nation.
“We want everything that everyone else has.” – Dalyn Bear, Whitecap Dakota First Nation.
A panel on education and training, facilitated by Dillon Johnson (Sliammon First Nation), with Dr. Andre Le Dressay (Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics), Suzanne Trottier (First Nations Financial Management Board) and Angie Derrickson (Lands Advisory Board and Resource Centre) discussed the various education, training and capacity-development initiatives undertaken by their respective organizations.
“Tulo Centre’s role is to adapt and ensure that a First Nation gets the most out of a particular jurisdiction.” – Andre LeDressay, Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics.
“The RC adapts to meet First Nations’ needs as we move forward.” – Angie Derrickson, Lands Advisory Board and Resource Centre.
There were also several interactive elements of the conference that encouraged engagement and boosted participation of the attendees, including:
FMB – The First Nations Financial Management Board produced a series of four videos that discussed the Financial Management System (FMS) Certification process, Shared Services to address the need in accessing and retaining skills resources, Business Development to raise revenues from lands, and a Default Management Prevention Pilot Project update.
FNII – The First Nations Infrastructure Institute developed a video to explain how this proposed institute will assist to provide the skills and processes necessary to ensure First Nations efficiently and effectively plan, procure, own and manage infrastructure assets on lands.
LAB – The Lands Advisory Board produced two videos that showcased the services of the Lands Management Resource Centre, as well as the LAB assisting First Nations managing their own affairs through improved land-management practices.
FNTC – The First Nations Tax Commission produced a series of four videos that discussed the history of First Nations involvement in taking on a role in tax jurisdiction, how the FMA tools developed by the FNTC can be used by First Nations as a way to create a healthy and vibrant community through improved programs and initiatives, and finally, a way to destruct the current systems in place and create new systems in a way that is appropriate for each First Nation community.
Interactive Q&A – An audience-interaction tool, Slido, was used to offer real-time questions and answers whereby attendees could submit broad or specific questions throughout the conference from their seats with their mobile devices. It also allowed crowdsourcing of the most popular questions, as indicated by the attendees during question-and-answer periods of each presentation. A number of the relevant Q&As attained from the tool and discussed at the conference are posted to the First Nations Leading the Way website.
Graphic Recordings – The conference had a graphic artist in attendance who created visually appealing illustrations that summarized the concepts and topics being discussed during the presentations and panels. The graphic recordings can be found on the First Nations Leading the Way website.
Delegate Interviews – Throughout the event, delegates had an opportunity to provide their thoughts via video interview. More than 50 delegates shared their First Nation success stories, perspectives and insights. These videos will be posted as they become available.
Written Feedback – One-page feedback forms were available for delegate feedback. The responses were compiled and will be used for planning the next national meeting.
Presentations – An archive of the presentations is available on FNLeadingTheWay.ca.
Photographs – Photographs from the event can also be found on FNLeadingTheWay.ca.
Protocol Signing – Working Together to Bring Prosperity to First Nation Communities
On May 30, the leaders of the three First Nations institutions and the Lands Advisory Board signed an historic protocol. The purpose of the protocol signing was to signify the importance of working together to improve governance, increase local jurisdiction and advance wealth generation for First Nation communities.
The signing took place on the final day of the First Nations Leading the Way II national meeting, where First Nations shared stories and panelists discussed experiences using the tools created as a result of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act and the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management.
“We are seeing the untapped potential of First Nations to lift not only their own economies but contribute to the prosperity of all Canadians. We are pleased that First Nations are using the tools and resources we offer, and this co-operative agreement will allow us to move more quickly along the path to reconciliation.”
Harold Calla, Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board
“The protocol we have signed will allow us to work more closely to maximize opportunities to build new infrastructure, improve fiscal management and increase the independence of First Nations from other levels of government. Ultimately, these steps will allow First Nations to break free from many of the restrictions of the Indian Act and support higher standards of community well-being.”
Ernie Daniels, President & CEO, First Nations Finance Authority
“This agreement will allow us to provide a forum where First Nations governments can work together, share resources and tools, and find solutions to common challenges. It demonstrates our commitment to expand our land and fiscal jurisdictions to raise our infrastructure and services to national standards and increase investment on our lands. I am both proud and pleased that we can come together for the benefit of our communities and all of Canada.”
C.T. (Manny) Jules, Chief Commissioner, First Nations Tax Commission
“We are absolutely committed to providing timely, co-ordinated support to First Nations as they retake their rightful jurisdiction over their lands, finances and resources. By working closely together, our organizations can ensure that this protocol will provide the maximum benefit for First Nations communities to improve health, education and living standards.”
Robert Louie, Chair, First Nations Lands Advisory Board