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EDITORIAL: Corporate sector embracing First Nations a solid step forward

'Along with community, and all levels of government, it is equally important for business to embrace an approach that invites Indigenous Peoples to participate in the corporate sector in a meaningful way, from their own point of view.'
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Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth Reconciliation is nearly upon us, once again signalling to communities the need for learning, and also for action.

On the day — Sept. 30 — many of us will wear orange shirts in the spirit of reconciliation and to inspire learning about Indigenous history.

It's an opportunity to take stock of where we are, locally, with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action.

The one way to make reconciliation tangible is for action to follow the commitment toward change.

Along with community, and all levels of government, it is equally important for business to embrace an approach that invites Indigenous Peoples to participate in the corporate sector in a meaningful way, from their own point of view.

This includes, as stated in Call to Action 92, meaningful consultation and consent, the building of respectful relationships, equitable access to employment and training opportunities, and long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects. 

It also includes education for management and staff in all companies on Indigenous history and rights, along with intercultural competency and anti-racism — values that should be ingrained in all corporate structures in modern-day business.

It is encouraging to see this happening, meaningfully, including in our local business community.

Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw and Alexander First Nation Chief George Arcand Jr. signed an agreement Aug. 19 to commit the county and Alexander to work together — government-to-government — on a variety of issues. 

That same day, Alexander celebrated the opening of the first on-reserve valve manufacturing plant in Canada, one Arcand said will bring long-term sustainable employment to the community and generate revenue for community programs.

On Jan. 20, Alexander First Nation announced the formation of an alliance between four Treaty 6 First Nations — the First Nation Capital Investment Partnership — to level the playing field and pursue ownerships in major infrastructure projects in Alberta's Industrial Heartland.

Arcand said, at the time, the alliance would empower the First Nations (Alexander, Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, and Paul First Nation) in a new and unique way to negotiate partnerships with industry and government, while achieving immediate returns and ensuring good stewardship of the land and the environment as projects move forward.

"People generally are not used to First Nations coming into the marketplace as an organized group," Arcand said in January.

But the corporate sector is starting to pay attention, as more private partnerships with First Nations begin to emerge.

Developer Landrex and Fort McKay First Nation announced their 50/50 partnership in March on a new $176-million Urban Village at the north end of St. Albert — one of the largest First Nation real-estate developments in the region.

It's the second time the pair has partnered on a real-estate project, as in 2021 they agreed to work together on a $27-million multi-family complex in Beaumont.

As all communities work together to achieve truth and reconciliation, it's encouraging to see First Nations moving into places of prosperity and empowerment in business, too.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.




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