By Clint Buehler
EDMONTON – The Alberta government has committed more than $4 million over the next three years to assist Aboriginal communities and Metis settlements facing economic challenges as a result of the downturn in the province’s forest industry.
“Volatile market prices and the negative effect of such things as the mountain pine beetle have had a significant effect on the traditional economic pursuits of Aboriginal people,” says Alberta Aboriginal Relations Minister Gene Zwozdesky. “This new funding will help develop and diversify v the economies of those communities to help them adapt to these economic, environmental and social challenges.
The approximately $4.3 million commitment will help:
The Aboriginal Communities in Transition initiative has been allocated $2.7 million to assist remote and non-Status Aboriginal communities in transition including Aseniwuche Winewak Nation (near Grande Cache), Calling Lake, Chipewyan Lake, Nakcowinewak Nation (near Hinton), Peerless Lake, Trout Lake and Wabasca Metis Local #90. This initiative will support development of community transition plans and implementation strategies.
The Western Metis Settlements Economic Diversification program has been allocated $1.4 million to assist the western Metis settlements of Paddle Prairie, East Prairie, Gift Lake and Peavine, communities whose local economies have suffered as a result of the downturn in the forestry industry. This initiative will support development of community transition plans and implementation strategies, facilitate partnerships and support pilot projects.
The Metis Settlements Land Registry Connectivity project has been allocated to support information and communications technology initiatives, specifically the registry’s new web-based land management system.
The first year of the program will focus on determining how each community has been affected by the slump in the forestry industry and on identifying their priorities. Each program will hire one or more community development specialists who will work directly with communities to develop community transition plans.
Those plans will serve as a guide for community development activities in years two and three and will focus on pilot projects that implement the development strategies.
The funding comes from the federal government’s $1 billion Community Development Trust Fund, created to help provinces and territories assist communities, organizations and workers move toward greater economic self-reliance, especially in communities facing declining employment or layoffs in the forestry sector.
The trust fund supports two priorities of the Alberta government: