Posts By: Mark Elyas

NDP Leading Poll

Since Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley swept the election this past spring, Thomas Mulcair’s Federal NDP’s polling numbers have consistently moved upwards. Currently, the NDP and the Conservatives are nearly running neck and neck for the support of Canadians in the upcoming election, according to a new Nanos Research poll that suggests the New Democrats have even more room for growth.

The new ballot-question results from the July 21, 2015 poll put the NDP at 31.4%, while the Conservatives have 30.8% support and Trudeau’s Liberals have 26.8%. The Liberals are leading in Atlantic Canada and are in a tight three-way race in BC, while the Conservatives had the most support in the Prairies and Ontario. The NDP is leading in Quebec and finished second in all other regions.

Justin Trudeau - Liberal Party Leader

Justin Trudeau – Liberal Party Leader

Prior to becoming Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau was much better known to the public than Thomas Mulcair. While his notoriety certainly helped the Liberals, opinions on Trudeau have always been strong until recently. Trudeau’s approval and disapproval ratings are nearly even throughout most of Canada, and his ratings remain higher than his party. Due to his approval ratings dropping and his disapproval ratings increasing, Justin Trudeau is the most polarizing of the three leaders. Only in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, where Trudeau’s approval rating is 29% and 50% respectively, do voters have a consensus opinion on him. This gives Trudeau less margin of error. Yet, Trudeau remains significantly more popular than his party in every part of the country. If the Liberal Party matched Trudeau’s approval ratings at the ballot box, they’d likely win a majority government, and the same goes for Mulcair and the NDP.

“It speaks to the fact that Mulcair is still a work in progress,” Nick Nanos told the Globe and Mail. “He’s got momentum, and he’s doing much better than he was three months ago… But this speaks to the importance of any attack ads and his ability to stand up to any scrutiny as he becomes a contender.”

Thomas Mulcair - NDP Party Leader

Thomas Mulcair – NDP Party Leader

Mulcair said the NDP would work with the Liberals if it meant ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but the Liberals are not even entertaining the idea. Mulcair said on July 23, 2015 that his party has always seen the defeat of the Harper Conservatives as a priority. “We know that they’ve done a lot of harm, and we want to start repairing the damage that [Harper’s] done,” Mulcair said from Amherstburg, Ontario where he stopped as part of an eight-day tour. “We’ve always worked with others in the past, but every time I’ve raised this prospect with Justin Trudeau, he’s slammed the door on it.”

The Liberal leader did that again that same day in Winnipeg when asked about the possibility of a formal coalition with the Mulcair’s NDP. “Although of course we are open to working with all parties in the House to pass good legislation and to ensure that Canadians’ interests are served, there will be no formal coalition with the NDP,” Trudeau said. “There are fundamental differences of opinion on very important elements of policy, whether it be Canadian unity or the Canadian economy and the need for growth, that we disagree with the NDP on.”

Mulcair reminded reporters of the possibility of a coalition government to oust the Conservatives in 2008. “The NDP said we were willing to make Stephane Dion the prime minister,” said Mulcair. “We thought it was important to replace Mr. Harper’s Conservatives. The Liberals signed a deal. They walked away from it. And, seven years later, we’ve still got Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.” The efforts were actually thwarted by the Governor General at the prime minister’s request when Parliament was prorogued, putting the coalition efforts on pause until the new year, by which time there had been a change in Liberal leadership. The deal between the Liberals and the NDP only would have been possible by including the separatist Bloc Quebecois. That was unacceptable to many Liberals.

Stephen Harper - Conservative Prime Minister

Stephen Harper – Conservative Prime Minister

NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen, raised the issue again in an interview on July 22, 2015. He said winning a majority in a federal election expected this fall remains his party’s goal, but ultimately the party’s number one priority is toppling Harper. “The Liberal voters that I know are as fed up with Stephen Harper as anybody,” Cullen said. “Justin Trudeau will do himself a great deal of damage with progressive voters if he wants to contemplate more years of this Harper government.”

There are several possible results on election day. Canada could see another wave of an Orange Crush that could result in an NDP government led by Mulcair. That same wave could also be concerning for many voters who feel that the NDP are anti-business, and that could push Liberal votes towards Harper’s Conservatives if the Liberal Party’s polling numbers do not match Trudeau’s popularity. On the other hand, if Harper and his Conservatives start sliding in the polls, we could end up seeing a Trudeau led Liberal government instead.

Voters are expected to go to the polls on Oct. 19, as per Canada’s fixed-election-date law.

Rachel Notley And Alberta’s NDP Win Election In Historic Landslide

After 44 years of Progressive Conservative Alberta governments, the NDP’s charismatic Rachel Notley made history by winning May 5th’s provincial election in a landslide victory. “I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight,” she said as her supporters cheered. “Friends, I believe change has finally come to Alberta.”

Rachel Notley_pic1_May2015

Rachel Notley And Alberta’s NDP Win Election In Historic Landslide

Notley’s NDP had won 54 of the province’s 87 seats, giving her a majority government. “I am deeply humbled, and I want to pledge to you, the people of Alberta, that we will work every day to earn your trust,” Notley said. “It’s been said before and it’s true, you can’t go wrong if you stay with the values and common sense of Albertans.” Notley stated that her party give Albertans a voice at the table. The NDP campaign promised higher taxes on corporations and a reversal of the PC’s cuts to healthcare and education. Addressing the business community, she said, “To Alberta’s job creators, great and small in the energy sector and every other sector, our government will be a good partner and we will work with you to grow our economy and to secure a more prosperous future for every Albertan in every community.” She stated, “We need finally to end the boom and bust rollercoaster we have been riding on. Our government will be a good partner and we will work with you to grow our economy and secure a more prosperous future for every Albertan in every community.”

The Tory collapse that took place on election day was unexpected. The PCs were reduced to less that a dozen seats in the Alberta Legislature. After seven months since he took the reins of the PC empire, Jim Prentice calmly took the stage at the downtown Calgary Metropolitan Centre and announced his immediate resignation. “Though I am personally saddened by the decision, the voters are always right in our democracy, and so it is this evening,” Prentice told the party faithful. “I share your disappointment, and I also accept responsibility for the decision that led up to this evening.”

“I’ve been a member of this party since I was a young man and I share your disappointment,” said Prentice. “As the leader of the party, I take responsibility for the decisions that led up to this evening. Clearly my contribution to public life has come to an end. It is time for me to dedicate my time to the other responsibilities I have as a husband, a father, and a grandfather.” Prentice immediately relinquished his post as MLA for Calgary-Foothills after being elected there.

Notley ran her campaign by telling people that Albertans are going to come first, corporations haven’t been paying their fair share, and the NDP will no longer let them get away with that. Wildrose Leader Brian Jean also won his seat in Fort McMurray-Conklin. “We were a very effective opposition,” he said. “The most effective opposition in Alberta’s history, and starting tomorrow, we’re going to show Rachel Notley a little bit of that opposition,” he said. Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann closed his speech by cheering for the Calgary Flames, still in the playoffs at the time, and Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark also won his seat.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated the Premier-Elect on her victory. “I look forward to working with future Premier Notley on issues of importance for Albertans and all Canadians, including creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity across the province and country,” he said in a statement the next morning. He also thanked Prentice, a former minister in his cabinet, for his service.

Rachel Notley’s NDP promised to back a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, and include the study of Aboriginal culture and history in provincial schools.

An historically high number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Albertans voted in the election, according to a sample from Elections Alberta, with many claiming they cast their vote for Rachel Notley’s NDP. For the first time in Alberta’s history, Aboriginal peoples were acknowledged in a premier-elect’s victory speech. “To Alberta’s indigenous peoples, the trust that we have been given tonight is a call to be better neighbours and better partners,” Notley said. “And I am looking forward to consulting with you and learning from you.” Notley committed to a renewed partnership with Alberta’s Aboriginal peoples during the campaign, promising to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and make it law in Alberta, in addition to solving land claims and addressing consultation issues.

Toxic Fuel Spill in Vancouver’s English Bay

The city of Vancouver and the surrounding waters of English Bay, Burrard Inlet, and the Straight of Georgia are on the unceded Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Investigators have confirmed the grain ship Marathassa was the source of the 2,700 litres of Bunker C Fuel that spilled into Vancouver’s English Bay on April 8th, 2015. A sailor first reported an oil slick to Port Metro Vancouver at about 5 p.m. The industry-funded Western Canada Marine Response Corp. was not called until 8 p.m., and it took four hours to establish a boom around the grain ship. City officials were not informed of the slick until 6 a.m. the next day, 13 hours after the spill.

Oil Spill pic1

The oil slick on the shores of Vancouver’s beaches does not go unnoticed. Photo courtesy of [travelweek.ca].

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson initially criticized the Coast Guard and their response times, calling efforts “totally inadequate.” He said, “The citizens of Vancouver are very frustrated. We don’t know what the total impact will be on our environment. We don’t know how much of that toxic substance sunk to the bottom and will be a long-term hazard in our waters.” Mayor Robertson softened his stance days later. Speaking at a news conference, Robertson admitted he’s happy with the work that’s been done so far. “The mistakes and gaps happened early on, and there’s been a big improvement since then,” he said. “It’s good to see that there’s been a strong response these last two days on the clean-up side. Crews have been in action. I don’t think we see any signs in the water of the oil spill.” Robertson reiterated that Vancouver residents deserved to know about the spill and the response to it in “real time.”

BC Premier Christy Clark blasted the Coast Guard’s response to the oil spill, saying the six hour delay in placing booms around the leaking tanker and the 13 hour delay notifying the city showed a shortage of “good judgment” and “nimbleness.” Clark said she felt it may be time for the Canadian Coast Guard to hand over the responsibility for leading the organization of oil-spill cleanups to the BC government. “Somebody needs to do a better job of protecting the coast, and the Coast Guard has not done it,” she said. “If that means that in the future the Coast Guard is relieved of their lead in this and starts taking direction from the province, then perhaps that’s a better way to do it, because we have a lot of experience, as you know, in working in a unified way.”

University of BC Fisheries Centre professor Rashid Sumaila (also an ocean and environmental specialist) explained in the Vancouver Sun that the response to the bunker oil spill in English Bay falls short of the world-class standards that Canadians expected. “This is such a disappointment,” said Sumaila. “Clearly not world-class.”

“What really hits me is that happens in the heat of the debate,” Sumaila says. “I thought they’d be much more prepared and the shipping companies would be extremely cautious not to let this happen. For me, this is a huge shock, actually. Getting to a spill quickly must be a priority in order to minimize the potential for the pollutant to spread and sink, which hinders collection. The lesson is that spills do, can, and will happen. Technology plays a great role, but it can’t completely solve the problem. It only goes so far.”

A significant contributing factor to the long response time is the federal government’s closure of the Coast Guard station in Vancouver in 2012. Had the station remained open, the response to the spill may have taken as few as six minutes. The Port of Metro Vancouver is Canada’s busiest port, but the nearest Coast Guard station is currently an hour away, south of the city. The Liberals say Harper’s marine safety cuts are putting BC’s economy and environment at risk and that a Liberal government will re-open the Vancouver Coast Guard station. “I used to live in this neighbourhood,” said Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. “I know that any spills of this nature are of serious concern to British Columbians and all Canadians. Stephen Harper’s cuts to marine safety resources and the closure of Vancouver’s Kitsilano Coast Guard Base each undermine our ability to respond to spills like this. A new Liberal government will reopen a full-service Coast Guard station in Vancouver and reinvest in marine safety and oil spill response capacity on the BC coast.”

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair also said that an NDP government would also reopen the station if elected in October. Harper’s Conservatives have cut Transport Canada’s funding for marine safety programs by over 27% since 2009, decreasing response capacity even as marine traffic continues to increase through Vancouver and along the BC coast. Cuts in BC alone have resulted in closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, the closure of three BC Marine Communication and Traffic Centres, and cuts to oil spill response coordination resources.

“Marine safety experts are highlighting how Stephen Harper’s closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base had a profoundly negative impact on response capabilities following this spill, and the consequences for Vancouver’s local waters and shorelines are deeply alarming,” said Dr. Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre. “We are incredibly thankful for the service of the first responders and crews who have worked to contain the damage, and Justin Trudeau’s commitment will help ensure that Vancouver’s economy and environment will never again be similarly put at risk.”

Commander of the Canadian Army: Lt. Gen. Marquis Hainse

Commander of the Canadian Army, Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse’s desire to join the military took its roots during his Air Cadets years in his hometown of Thetford Mines, Quebec. Following in his older bother’s footsteps, he joined the Cadets, and the military way of life became appealing to him in his teenage years. Hainse joined the Royal Military College in St-Jean, Quebec, where he had developed his knowledge of the Canadian Armed Forces, particularly the Army. “Thirty-eight years later, I am still serving and still enjoying every minute of it,” he says.

Annual spending on the military, compared to 2011, has been slated to shrink by a total of $2.7-billion this year, according to a briefing note from the Department of National Defence. That is almost $300 million more than internal estimates and roughly $600 million higher than the figure defence officials acknowledged last fall when they rolled out the department’s renewal plan. “There is no doubt that the fiscal situation has changed over the past few years, and that the Army’s budget is less than it has been,” Hainse acknowledged. “So, we will adjust our priorities to reflect the resources available to us; but at the same time, certain tasks are non-negotiable. I will preserve Army core capabilities by ensuring combined arms live fire training. We will find efficiencies through the Defence Renewal Process, shed some costs through older infrastructure and equipment divestments, and make sure our force is well balanced, meaning that we will ensure we have the right people doing the right jobs in the right locations. At the end of the day, I remain confident that the Army will be postured to complete its missions with the resources available.”

One of the Lieutenant-General’s early domestic deployments was as a Company Commander the Oka Crisis of 1990. “I will say up front that during that period, both the Canadian Armed Forces and Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples faced a very tense and uncomfortable moment, but more importantly, we both learned from that historic event,” said Lt. Gen. Hainse. “With regard to the lasting effects of that event, I believe that the intervening period has enabled a better understanding of the values guiding both communities; it has also triggered a significant increase in the development of Aboriginal programs within Defence. The development of this mutual comprehension continues today, and with my role as Aboriginal Champion for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, I hope to maintain this trend.”

ALOY Completion Ceremony 2014

ALOY Completion Ceremony June 20th, 2014 at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.

Hainse is very proud that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a wide variety of programs related to Aboriginal peoples. “Taken together, they serve to recognize and celebrate their many contributions throughout Canada’s history. They allow Aboriginal people to take advantage of the education and training opportunities that the Armed Forces have to offer, like subsidized college and university programs,” said Hainse. He notes that these programs also serve to inform and educate the defence institution so that when the CAF enrols Aboriginal peoples, they join an organization knowledgeable about them and responsive to their unique contributions and cultures. “We work hard with communities and leaders to make this successful. The long and proud history of Aboriginal people in Canada’s military is an important element in these programs.”

The Lt. Gen. described the programs: “We have Summer Training Programs such as Bold Eagle, Raven, and Black Bear; we have the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Also, our Canadian Rangers Program—not exclusive to Aboriginal youth but very much targeted that way—is another important program. As well, the Aboriginal Entry Program is a three week program for Aboriginal people considering a career in the military. Lastly, the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group exists to advise senior leaders on a whole range of issues within the department.”

The Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG) is celebrating its 20th anniversary in March, 2015. The DAAG offers valuable guidance to the senior leadership of the CAF to promote and create fair, equitable, and inclusive working environments for all Aboriginal members of the Defence Team, both military and civilian. The members of the DAAG support the chain of command in its mandate to foster awareness of Aboriginal issues, recruiting and retention issues, and also provide a forum within the organization for Aboriginal peoples to gather and support one another as they exercise their unique cultural, spiritual, and traditional identities. Since its creation twenty years ago, the DAAG has influenced many positive initiatives, including a change in dress regulations that allows Aboriginal members to wear their hair in a traditional manner. The DAAG laid the groundwork for all the Aboriginal programs.

ALOY Completion Ceremony 2014

R. Donald Maracle, Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, and Lt. Gen. Hainse seated on the dais during the ALOY Completion Ceremony at the Royal Military College in Kingston Ontario, June 20th, 2014.

Lt. Gen. Hainse describes his role as the Aboriginal Champion for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces as “first and foremost one of advocacy. I am an advocate for all things Aboriginal in the Army, as well as in the other services and within the defence institution as a whole. Practically speaking, I promote Aboriginal programs in my speeches and presentations. I encourage Aboriginal considerations in Defence business planning and decision making. I help foster an equitable and welcoming workplace through awareness of Aboriginal issues. Overall, I think that the mere fact that we have a Champion in the department demonstrates our commitment to furthering the role and presence of Aboriginal people in the military.”

When asked why he, the Army Commander, is the Aboriginal Champion versus his Commander colleagues at the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy, Hainse said, “perhaps because I asked for it! Both my predecessors acted as Champion, and when I was appointed Army Commander, I requested to carry on in that role. Practically speaking, it is a good fit. The Army is the largest of the three services, and so naturally we employ more people in a broader range of trades. We also have the Canadian Rangers, which is not an Aboriginal organization per se, but over 60% of Canadian Rangers are Aboriginal. But in reality, any one of our senior leaders would be well positioned to play this role; I am just happy that for now, the honour is mine.”

Hainse says, “The face of Aboriginal people in the Forces is a mirror image of the face of Canada. Now more than ever, Canada is a cultural, ethnic, religious and racial mosaic. It is an extraordinarily diverse and accepting country. As a result, our military must strive every day to be a diverse and accepting military. I am proud to see Aboriginal soldiers wearing traditional braids, working alongside turbaned Sikh comrades and female infantry soldiers, and so on. So, to complete my answer to your question, the face of Aboriginal people in the Armed Forces is that of a skilled, dedicated, professional soldier, sailor, airman or airwoman, bringing diversity to the profession of arms.”

ALOY Completion Ceremony 2014

ALOY Cadets march past during the ALOY Completion Ceremony held at RMC.

Many of the young Aboriginals who join the armed forces are moving from small and isolated communities to larger urban centres. When asked how the CAF facilitates their transition, Hainse said, “I’m not sure that transition is the best term because it implies an end state. Rather, we see it as a continuous process where Aboriginal applicants are adapting to and ultimately adopting life in the military and the ‘big city’. But clearly, we do understand the challenges and that is one of the reasons why all the programs I mentioned earlier seek to lessen the culture shock. These programs provide mentoring, promote Aboriginal teachings, traditions and spirituality, but even more important, they are developed in close coordination with elders. In addition, the military is also an extended family; we work and play together. It is within this military family that participants receive the support they need to become a soldier in the big city, while at the same time honouring and preserving their Aboriginal heritage.”

“I am certainly very proud to have been entrusted with this responsibility and grateful at the same time, as I have learned so much about Aboriginal heritage, culture and history in this job,” Hainse explains. “Creating and nurturing diversity in an historic institution like National Defence is not an easy task; it is a long term project and to be honest I’m not sure it ever really ends, but, rather continues to mature and improve. We have made enormous progress in my time in the military, and I believe that progress will continue. We have the institutional will and the moral obligation to make it so, and that will guide us in the future.”

“Speaking for the Army in particular, I can say without hesitation that the contributions that Aboriginal soldiers bring to the table will continue to improve the Canadian Army and will ensure we remain Strong, Proud and Ready to serve Canada and Canadians.”

New AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Faces Many Challenges

The new National Chief of the AFN Perry Bellegarde has already had some success in his administration’s first couple of months. His election signaled Prime Minister Stephen Harper to back away from the controversial First Nations Education Bill. In an unusual move, the prime minister changed his mind on the bill and has made efforts to publicize it. In a one on one meeting with the prime minister, the national chief was told the government was not going to move forward with the bill. That doesn’t mean Bellegarde does not have his work cut out for him on this issue. The Harper government has delayed its promised first Conservative balanced budget since it has been in government, due to tanking oil prices. Obviously, Finance Minister Joe Oliver will be looking to make cuts, and he is surely looking at the $1.9 billion that was set aside for First Nations education with the controversial bill.

Bellegarde_Feb2015

New AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde says he warned the Prime Minister of the message it would send to First Nations if the government decides to re-profile First Nations education money.

In an interview with the Canadian press, Perry Bellegarde said he asked Harper during the one on one meeting not to use funds set aside for First Nations education in last year’s budget for another purpose, such as paying down the deficit to balance the books in an election year. The new national chief did not leave his meeting with the Prime Minister with any sense of optimism about the education money. “I can’t say yes or no. I didn’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling in terms of the request,” Bellegarde said. “So it’s a work in progress. But we’re not going to quit our efforts. We’re going to continue our lobby efforts. It’s just too important.”

Bellegarde says he warned the Prime Minister of the message it would send to First Nations if the government decides to re-profile the education money. “It would signal that they’re not in touch with communities, not in touch with the needs, and basically putting First Nations issues to the side when it comes to education, which is a travesty,” he said.

When it comes to First Nations education there is a 40% funding gap. On-reserve schools get $6500 per student for tuition, versus the $10,500 per student off-reserve. “That has to be addressed,” Bellegarde said in an interview with Eagle Feather News. “That is the issue. We need to look at the equitable funding, not equal, but equitable. We are not going to jeopardize First Nation jurisdiction.” Under the new national chief’s administration, the chiefs in the assembly passed a resolution that calls for a national fiscal framework respecting regional differences and approaches.

The Liberals called on the Conservatives to make the money tied to the education bill available now. “It’s time for the prime minister to stop playing politics with the futures of First Nations children by holding back essential funding for their education,” Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett said in a statement. “The additional funding for First Nations education announced last year should flow immediately.”

Bellegarde also raised the need for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in the meeting with the prime minister. Harper said that an inquiry wasn’t high on their radar. This is an issue that is one of the biggest black marks on Canadians. Close to 1200 Aboriginal women have been murdered or have gone missing. Bellegarde says two things are happening. In February, there is a round table that will give an action plan for a coordinated approach to end violence against Aboriginal women and girls. “But we are not going to quit on the push for this national inquiry,” Bellegarde told Eagle Feather News. “You’ve got to keep pushing hard. There is a federal election coming up and we have to make sure this is front and centre in all the federal parties’ platforms.”

Bellegarde believes that we need to get to the root causes of the violence. He believes an inquiry will educate everyone about the importance of the issue and change people’s attitudes. “Education leads to awareness, leads to understanding, and that leads to action. We are not going to stop our efforts to push for that,” said Bellegarde.

The national chief is also challenged with the relevance of the AFN, including the future of the political lobby group representing 639 First Nations across Canada. He must deal with severe funding cuts, pressures for the AFN to be more inclusive, and alternatives proposed by treaty organizations, issues big enough to threaten the organization’s existence.

In an interview with Grassroots News, Bellegarde says he is confidant in the future of the AFN. Speaking about the deep federal funding cuts that Aboriginal and First Nations organizations have faced, he states that the he and the chiefs know they need to develop new sources of financing so organizations are not so dependent on government funding and can withstand budget cuts. “We need to have an independent voice,” says Bellegarde. “Funding from the federal government can mean you can’t bite the hand that feeds you. In Saskatchewan,where I am from, we have the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Association,which provides $2.5 million a year to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. TheAFN has formed a team to develop independent sources of funding including the development of business enterprises, foundations, membership fees and other ideas. Self-determination does not happen without economic self-determination. It is vital to have an organization like AFN to undertake the legal work and policy analysis during these times when the Harper Government is passing omnibus legislation which is making it easier to destroy the environment and violate our Treaty Rights.”

Bellegarde welcomes input from First Nations citizens and organizations like Idle No More. “The Corbier decision gave every First Nations person, both on and off-reserve, the right to vote for Chief and Council,” said Bellegarde. “Their views are at the top of the pile which filters down through Tribal Councils and provincial organizations to the AFN.”

Bellegarde is open to ideas of re-organizing or re-structuring First Nations along Treaty territories rather than provincial boundaries. Some First Nations would rather be grouped as Treaty One Chiefs or unite as Cree or Ojibway. “That is fine, so that we maintain a strong, united, national collective voice,” says Bellegarde. “We must be respectful of the diversity so that we can be relevant and responsive to the needs and issues identified by our people.” In his short time in office, the AFN is developing more outreach programs to hear the opinions of First Nations citizens, including the wisdom of the Elders, women, and youth. They also plan to use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to get feedback.

Amending the Indian Act is another divisive issue. A private member’s bill, Bill C-438, has been put forward by Aboriginal Conservative MP Rob Clarke to amend the Indian Act. Bellegarde says he is opposed to the bill because, like the controversial First Nations Education bill, First Nations were not consulted. “You can’t tinker with something which has been in place since 1876 on your own, without consent,” Bellegarde told Grassroots News. “We will move beyond the Indian Act, but it is going to take time, and we are going to have to respect the jurisdictions of all the First Nations across Canada. This includes the over 500 First Nations who have treaties with Canada, groups and individual First Nations who have different arrangements like Sioux Valley, the Nisga’a, the James Bay Cree. Every First Nation is different and is going to require a special relationship which meets the needs of the people there.”

Bellegarde’s approach is not “business as usual” when it comes to development on First Nations land. In his victory speech, Bellegarde singled out pipelines and energy development as the front lines in his battle to put First Nations on equal footing with the rest of Canada. “To the people across this great land, I say to you, that the values of fairness and tolerance which Canada exports to the world, are a lie when it comes to our people,” Bellegarde said. “Canada will no longer develop pipelines, no longer develop transmission lines or any infrastructure on our lands as business as usual… That is not on.”

He pledged opposition to any project that deprives First Nations a share of the profits. “We will no longer accept poverty and hopelessness while resource companies and governments grow fat off our lands and territories and resources. If our lands and resources are to be developed, it will be done only with our fair share of the royalties, with our ownership of the resources and jobs for our people. It will be done on our terms and our timeline.” His final remarks drew one of the loudest responses from the crowd. “Canada is Indian land. This is my truth and this is the truth of our peoples.”

Bellegarde understands his position requires a balancing act of listening more than leading because the job is to represent the position of the chiefs on issues rather than dictate or decide what needs to be done. “While mainstream politicians may be elected to study and exercise their judgement on a number of policies and programs, the National Chief is bound by the decisions made by the Chiefs,” Bellegarde told Eagle Feather News. “Whenever I state a position on an issue, I am representing what the Chiefs want.”

 

Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair to Face Off in 2015 Election

Unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper decides otherwise, the upcoming federal election is going to be held on October 19th, 2015. For Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, a lot is at stake. Harper’s government has clearly set its own priorities by cutting Aboriginal funding across the board nearly 60% without consulting Aboriginal organizations. In addition to cutting funds for Aboriginal education, serious housing issues on reserves like Attawapiskat remain unresolved, and the Harper government withdrew from the historic Kelowna Accord set by his Liberal predecessor.

The Idle-No-More movement sparked Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s six week hunger strike two years ago. Her Northern Ontario First Nation sits along the Attawapiskat River near a diamond mine, and their suffering is reflected in the misery of many reserve communities across the country. Media brought it to national attention with shocking images of children living in unheated shacks and trailers during a northern Ontario winter. The Red Cross had to swoop in to provide necessary aid, embarrassing the Prime Minister and his government. Chief Spence paid a price for that embarrassment, though. She ended up facing the brunt of the Harper government’s attack blaming her and her band council for their own poverty. The Aboriginal Affairs Minister at the time, John Duncan, stripped the band council of its authority over finances and imposed a consultant to run Attawapiskat’s affairs, a move harshly criticized by the Federal Court as “unreasonable.” The Idle-No-More movement said it wanted to “stop the Harper government from passing more laws and legislation that will further erode treaty and indigenous rights and the rights of all Canadians.” Idle-No-More called on all people to join in a revolution which honours and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty.

Harper must also contend with the new AFN leadership under National Chief Perry Bellegarde. The new National Chief warned it will no longer be business as usual when it comes to development on First Nations land. In his victory speech, Bellegarde singled out pipelines and energy development as one of the frontlines in his battle to put First Nations on equal footing with the rest of Canada. “To the people across this great land, I say to you, that the values of fairness and tolerance which Canada exports to the world are a lie when it comes to our people,” Bellegarde said. “Canada will no longer develop pipelines, no longer develop transmission lines or any infrastructure on our lands as business as usual.” Bellegarde pledged opposition to any project that deprives First Nations a share of the profits. “We will no longer accept poverty and hopelessness while resource companies and governments grow fat off our lands and territories and resources. If our lands and resources are to be developed, it will be done only with our fair share of the royalties, with our ownership of the resources and jobs for our people. It will be done on our terms and our timeline.”

The Prime Minister has often touted Canada as an energy giant due to Alberta’s vast oil sands. His government wrote and legislated omnibus bills to remove environmental protections and laws requiring proper consultations with First Nations for resources and pipeline developments. Recently though, and to the Prime Minister’s surprise, oil prices have tanked. His lack of investment and interest in other industries is now obvious. His lack of preparedness for plummeting oil prices has caused his finance minister to delay the budget by months, figuring out how to keep their promise of a balanced budget in 2015. The Bank of Canada, forecasting turbulent economic times, has lowered interest rates, and executives at Canada’s Big Five banks are expecting another rate cut of .25% in the near future, apparently expecting little to no economic growth for the nation overall.

Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says a national inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women “isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest.”

Harper also faces significant backlash on the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls. According to an Angus Reid poll, 73% of Canadians want a national inquiry on this issue. The opposition parties, every Aboriginal leader and organization in the country, and all 13 Premiers (including the conservative ones) have called for national inquiry on this grave issue, but the Prime Minister heartlessly stated in an interview with CBC just before Christmas that a national inquiry “isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest.” Harper said the government can spend “hundreds of millions of dollars” and simply “get the same report for the 41st or 42nd time.” The missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls could become a hot election issue, and may hand the Conservatives a loss in the upcoming election. The Native Women’s Association of Canada president Michele Audet was very critical of Harper, saying he has a double standard for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. “It could be one woman or 1,000 Aboriginal women, he doesn’t care at all,” said Audet. “But when a young woman commits suicide because she was bullied through Facebook, he will go and visit the family and say he will do everything in his power to make sure his government puts in place legislation that will not tolerate any bullying on the internet.”

Mulcair

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, has been neither very vocal nor effective on the issues facing Aboriginal peoples.

The Leader of the Opposition, NDP’s Thomas Mulcair, has not been vocal or effective on issues facing Aboriginal peoples. His predecessor, the late Jack Layton, inspired a hope never seen before in Canadian politics, but since Mulcair has become leader, the NDP’s national support had fallen, and more than half of their previous support in Quebec has been handed to the Liberals under Justin Trudeau. If current trends continue, the NDP will again fall into third place in the House on election day.

The Liberal Party under Interim Leader Bob Rae and current Leader Justin Trudeau saw gains in national support. When in comes to Aboriginal issues, Trudeau hasn’t said much, but his personal recruitment of AFN Regional Chief for BC Jody Wilson-Raybould to run in the new Vancouver-Granville riding is promising. As of January 24th, the Liberals currently have eleven Aboriginal candidates, with several others running for the Liberals nomination in their respective ridings, including Native Women’s Association president Michele Audet.

Daniol Coles, a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, will run in the newly formed riding of Edmonton-Griesbach. He is disappointed that the government spends more time fighting First Nations than working with them. Coles said the Liberals vowed in 2014 not to repeat “the mistakes of the past and strive for meaningful consultation when considering legislation and policy that impact the right of indigenous peoples.” That included a resolution formally rejecting Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s infamous 1969 white paper that proposed an end to the Indian Act and calling it “a serious mistake.”

According to Coles, who chaired the Liberal Party’s Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission for two years, the apology set the younger Trudeau apart from his father in the eyes of Aboriginal chiefs. In Alberta, where the memory of Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program still stings, saying sorry is not insignificant. “It was groundbreaking,” Coles said.

Justin Trudeau

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the Prime Minister is “on the wrong side of history” in his refusal to launch a public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

On the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, Trudeau said the Prime Minister is “on the wrong side of history” in his refusal to launch a public inquiry. In the aftermath of the murder of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, an Aboriginal girl from Winnipeg, Trudeau said, “My heart goes out to the families of not just Tina Fontaine but of all the missing and murdered over the years. The prime minister has shown himself not to be simply… just out of touch with Canadians on this issue, but also on the wrong side of history.”

As for economic development, Trudeau will be taking a page from Prime Minister Paul Martin’s playbook. Martin is the first Prime Minister in Canadian history to change the approach towards Aboriginal peoples in this country. Motivated to close the gaps in education, health care, housing, and economics between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, Prime Minister Martin encouraged Aboriginal leaders to present their own priorities to the government, including when it came to negotiating the now scrapped historic Kelowna Accord. Since leaving office, Prime Minister Martin has dedicated his life to bettering the lives of Aboriginal peoples through his Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, and his business initiative Capefund, a $50 million fund to help Aboriginal businesses and start-ups enter international markets. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have signalled that a Government of Canada with Trudeau as Prime Minister will conduct a national inquiry for the missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. This election campaign and the results will surely affect Aboriginal peoples from coast to coast to coast.

 

Aboriginal Organizations Hit With $60 Million In Cuts. Inuit Organizations Hit Hardest.

In the past three years, Aboriginal organizations have faced $60 million worth of cuts from Stephen Harper’s government. Inuit groups were hit the hardest, according to an internal AFN analysis. The analysis, based on Aboriginal Affairs’ department figures as of January 7th, found Inuit organizations were hardest hit with 71% of funding cuts between 2012 and 2015. First Nations organizations saw their overall funding, including core and project based funding, drop from $69 million to $24 million, or 65.5 % cut. Metis organizations suffered 39% in cuts. Non-status Indian organizations were cut 14% and women’s organizations were cut 7%.

First Nation organizations in Ontario saw the biggest overall cuts to funding. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Ontario First Nation organizations received about $20 million in project and core funding. In the 2014-2015 year, the same funding was reduced to about $5 million,(76% cut). Two organizations in New Brunswick and PEI have been hit by 80% in cuts, while in Saskatchewan, the sole regional organization, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations faced 91% in cuts. In Manitoba, three regional First Nation organizations, Southern Chiefs, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimankanak and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), were hit with 78% in cuts between 2012 and 2015. Aboriginal Affairs stated Aboriginal organizations would still receive proposal driven project funding as in past years, as long as they were within the firm February deadlines. Meeting the deadline this past February, the AMC submitted eight proposals totalling $2.621 million for the current fiscal year. As of November 2014, well into this fiscal year, Aboriginal Affairs responded with approval of $102,000, which is only half of one of the submitted proposals.

Derek Nepinak

Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Derek Nepinak: “I feel that we have been misled…”

Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Derek Nepinak stated in a press release, “I feel that we have been misled to think that the Government of Canada, under the Harper regime, would act in good faith and support policy development from local and community based initiatives. Instead we have been forced to jump through hoops, expending our limited resources in order to meet February deadlines for proposals that didn’t get final evaluation until November, which is the end of the 3rd quarter of the fiscal year.”

Three First Nations organizations in BC, the BC First Nation Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the BC AFN have faced 73% in cuts. The summit was hardest hit with an 82% reduction. Tribal Councils, which are different than regional organizations and represent smaller groups of First nation communities, have also seen their core funding drop 40% from about $49 million in 2011-2012 to $30 million in 2014-2015.

The cuts were initially announced by former Aboriginal Affairs minister John Duncan in 2012. At the time he said Ottawa would be changing the “funding model” for Aboriginal organizations and tribal councils, focusing on areas that matched the Harper Government’s “priorities,” a classic Conservative Party colonial move to dictate the priorities of Aboriginal peoples instead of allowing them to define their own priorities. The Harper government spent $15 million last year promoting “Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” a catchphrase promoting stimulus spending that ended two years ago, which is more than $5 million approved by the Treasury Board. They also spent $2.5 million to advertise a job grant that does not exist.

In an interview with First Nations Drum, NDP MP and Aboriginal Affairs critic Jean Crowder stated that the funding cuts were “really troubling,” because the Harper Government has not been transparent about the cuts. “The government has neither been open or transparent about the cuts, nor have they been open and transparent about the impacts these cuts will have on Aboriginal communities. They have never described how the money would be allocated differently,” said Crowder. “The government has stated that they are going to reallocate the funds towards education and economic development in the Aboriginal communities, but I have not seen any evidence of any funding towards those areas.”

“The Federal Government has continued to deny program access for many Aboriginal organizations who represent legitimate constituents across the country,” said Keith Henry, President of the BC Metis Federation told First Nations Drum. “This is especially true for the Metis, where unless an individual belongs to a handful of Federal government recognized Metis societies such as the Metis National Council and their governing members including the Metis Nation British Columbia, there is no process to apply or be recognized to address the cultural and social well being for Metis people. This has far reaching consequences as these organizations only represent a small portion of the Metis population in Canada, and moreover they only define Metis in Ontario westward and part of BC historically which we know is inaccurate today.”

“These Federal Government cuts make no sense when Metis people and organizations are seeking their Section 35 right to self governance and yet the Federal Government, through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, refuses to engage with any one outside the Metis National Council and their governing members,” Henry stated.

“I cannot understand how these cuts to some of our must vulnerable people in Canada can be allowed to occur when Metis organizations such as ours in BC have been calling for new Metis cultural programs as our language and culture is being lost every day,” Henry continued. “We have been denied repeatedly for project and governance funding and it appears that there are very few Aboriginal leaders pressuring the Federal Government to justify such major reductions to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. It is clear the Government of Canada must respect and follow their own laws which includes the right to self govern. These cuts are irresponsible and Aboriginal leaders should be outraged. I do not see any of this changing and my fear is a passive attitude of acceptance will result in further negative social, economic, and cultural impacts to all Aboriginal peoples in Canada.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Candidates Compete: Picard, Jourdain, Bellegarde

Chiefs from every First Nation in Canada will be gathering in Winnipeg December 9th-11th to select a new National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Surprisingly, lawyer Pam Palmater and Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak are not campaigning for National Chief. This year there are three candidates: Chief Ghislain Picard, Chief Leon Jourdain, Chief Perry Bellegarde.

Perry Bellegarde

Candidate Perry Bellegarde was elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2014.

 

Chief Ghislain Picard is Innu from Pessamit, Quebec. Between 1976-1989, he was responsible for communications and media relations for the Conseil Atikamekw Montagnais (CAM), serving as VP in 1989 and publishing Tepatshimuwin for the Atikamekw and Innu communities. As president of the Centre d’Amitié Autochtone de Québec, he helped develop a community radio network within his Nation and co-founded the Société de Communication Atikamekw et Montagnaise (SOCAM), which produces Aboriginal language radio broadcasts. Mr. Picard is a Knight in the National Order of Québec and was awarded the insignia of Knight in the Legion of Honour from the Consul General of France. He has held his current position as Regional Chief of the AFN of Quebec and Labrador since 1992.

Chief Picard Since was chosen to serve as Interim National Chief after the resignation of National Chief Shawn Atleo. Under Picard’s leadership, the AFNQL launched a judicial review to overturn the federal government’s Aboriginal education bill. He recently denounced the government’s decision not to call a national public inquiry into the case of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, calling it “disrespectful.” Picard opposes the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which requires expenses and salaries of chiefs and councillors to be posted online. He supports accountability but not disclosure beyond the requirements for other levels of government.

Chief Leon Jourdain is former Grand Chief of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 and is the current Chief of the Lac La Croix First Nation in Ontario. Leading a progressive band council as a councillor and chief for 15 years, Jourdain recognized his community’s struggle with addiction and successfully maintained laws banning alcohol from his community. He negotiated a unique coexistence agreement between Lac La Croix and the Province of Ontario allowing co-management of Quetico Provincial Park and management of Crown Land for development, forming a lasting social and economic partnership.

Chief Jourdain became Grand Chief of Treaty #3 in 1999 at Naicatchewenin First Nation during a traditional selection ceremony, receiving the endorsement of all participating chiefs and councillors.  He managed the Grand Council responsibly and converted a $1 million deficit to 5 years of surplus. His long-term vision of nation rebuilding moves away from the Indian Act and rebuilds the Anishinaabe Nation using traditional forms of governance.

Chief Jourdain believes that as long as the AFN continues to allow First Nations to exist under a corporate status and accept government subsidies through contribution agreements, the inhumane conditions will continue to be a way of life for our First Nations people. “Government policy will continue to rob indigenous peoples and nations of their identity and respect,” he writes in an open letter to Chiefs. “No more can we allow our political representative entities to be used as justification for symbolic consultation processes without any consideration or accommodation of our rights, interests, issues, and needs. Identity, respect, and inherent responsibility are vital to the rebuilding of our nations.”

Chief Perry Bellegarde has experience, vision, and an executable plan that will work for all First Nations communities. He served as a Tribal Council Representative for the Touchwood-File Hills-Qu’Appelle Tribal Council and was instrumental in returning the old “Indian hospital” in Treaty Four Territory to First Nations control and establishing the All Nations Healing Hospital in Fort Qu’Appelle, serving First Nations and non-First Nations people alike. He served 5 years as Chief of the FSIN and Saskatchewan Regional Chief for the AFN and was elected to the Council of Little Black Bear First Nation in 2007, serving as Chief of Little Black Bear until 2012 and leading it back from the financial brink.

During his first year as chief of the FSIN, he negotiated a 25-year gaming framework agreement that resulted in six First Nations casinos run by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) creating 2,000 employment opportunities, additional funding, and long-term financial stability. Chief Bellegarde accomplished this during his first year of leadership as FSIN Chief. He also served as Vice President, Labour and Aboriginal Initiatives for the Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan and implemented GradWorks youth internship program.

Chief Bellegarde will establish processes for self-determination that include revenue sharing, environmental sustainability, and consulting and accommodating with prior and informed consent. He is committed to revitalizing indigenous languages and upholding indigenous rights as human rights in international forums. Chief Bellegarde also plans on immediate action for an inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. “It is absolutely essential and in the interests of all Canadians that we address and finally begin to close the long standing and unacceptable gaps between First Nations and non-First Nations people in Canada. First Nations do not seek better education; we seek the same. First Nations employment opportunities need to match those of other Canadians. First Nations health resources need to mirror those available to non-First Nations people while being culturally-based and appropriate. And First Nations must be economically self-sufficient based upon our inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights.”

Prime Minister Says Missing And Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls Are Not A Priority

In an interview with CBC News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper exposed his complete lack of sympathy towards the families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls across Canada. “It isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest,” Harper told CBC’s Peter Mansbridge. “We have an awful lot of studies and information on the phenomenon and an awful good indication of what the record is in terms of investigation and prevention of these sorts of things.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper says murdered and missing women issue “isn’t really high on our radar.”

Harper said the government can spend “hundreds of millions of dollars,” as it has on other royal commissions or inquiries, and simply “get the same report for the 41st or 42nd time.” He stands firm on his refusal for a national public inquiry. An Angus Reid survey earlier this fall that showed 73% of Canadians favour a public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen on December 18th, newly elected AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said he was “very disappointed” by Harper’s comments. Bellegarde was also critical of comments made by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt on the same issue. Valcourt said Aboriginal men have a “lack of respect” for women on reserves and that First Nations should do more themselves to fix the problem of violence against Aboriginal women.

“I always say if you have to change minds around, you need to engage in a dialogue,” said Chief Bellegarde, indicating that he will continue to pressure the Prime Minister. “I want to engage in that sooner than later to change his mind and heart on this very important issue. We need to shed some light on the need to address the root causes. Dealing with housing, the poverty, and looking at the need for more safe shelters and daycares. But basically, to look at prevention so that this phenomenon doesn’t happen anymore.”

“I welcome the prime minister’s participation in trying to resolve the issue,” continued Bellegarde. “But I also realize that with statements like that, we have a lot of work to do to get him properly educated about the issue, to fully understand the issue and not blame victims or the communities.”

Native Women’s Association of Canada president Michele Audet said Harper has a double standard for indigenous and non-indigenous people. “It could be one woman or 1,000 Aboriginal women, he doesn’t care at all,” said Audet. “But when a young woman commits suicide because she was bullied through Facebook, he will go and visit the family and say he will do everything in his power to make sure his government puts in place legislation that will not tolerate any bullying on the internet.”

Splatsin First Nation, Sorgent.e Hydro Canada, And Fosthall Creek Power Reach Hydro Project Agreement

The Splatsin First Nation, Sorgent.e Hydro Canada, and Fosthall Creek Power have signed an Impact Benefit Agreement that will bring economic and social benefits to the First Nation. “In order to move away from government funding and bring prosperity to our people, our vision is building long term partnerships such as the one we are signing today, ” said Chief Wayne Christian.

From left to right: Darcy Fear (VP Fosthall Creek Power Ltd.), Chief Wayne M. Christian of Splatsin First Nation, and Lucas De Haro (CEO Sorgent.e Hydro Canada) signing the agreement.

From left to right: Darcy Fear (VP Fosthall Creek Power Ltd.), Chief Wayne M. Christian of Splatsin First Nation, and Lucas De Haro (CEO Sorgent.e Hydro Canada) signing the agreement.

In 2001, Darcy Fear from nearby Crescent Valley, BC saw potential for a small hydroelectric project at Fosthall Creek, a farming town that was never built. He met with Harold Kalke, a visionary businessman with experience in energy and real estate industries, and together they created Fosthall Creek Power Ltd. In 2013, Fosthall Creek Power partnered with Sorgent.e Hydro Canada to complete the development of a clean energy hydro project: a proposed 15 megawatts run-of-river project near Nakusp, BC. “Harold and I have spent 13 years of our lives in this development, and with this agreement we are taking big steps towards the main goal, that is, the construction of the power plant,” said Darcy Fear, now Vice President of Fosthall Creek Power Ltd.

After years of conversations and consultation, the Splatsin First Nation, Sorgent.e and Fosthall have signed an agreement for the development, construction, and operation of the power plant, which could generate enough power to supply 5 times the households in the entire Secwepemc (Shuswap) Nation for more than 40 years. Fosthall Creek Power is completing the last stage of development before construction and plans to deliver long-term clean energy to BC Hydro’s grid. Located on the shore of Upper Arrow Lake, the project has a friendly environmental footprint that will include a spawning channel and a pen-stock that runs on an old log flume pathway.

From left to right: Councillor Lawrence Williams, Councillor Daniel Joe, Darcy Fear from Fosthall Creek Power Ltd., Councillor Jean M. Brown,  Chief Wayne Christian, Councillor George William, Lucas de Haro from Sorgent.e Hydro Canada, and Councillor Reno Lee during the gifts exchange after signing the agreement.

From left to right: Councillor Lawrence Williams, Councillor Daniel Joe, Darcy Fear from Fosthall Creek Power Ltd., Councillor Jean M. Brown, Chief Wayne Christian, Councillor George William, Lucas de Haro from Sorgent.e Hydro Canada, and Councillor Reno Lee during the gifts exchange after signing the agreement.

The Splatsin First Nation community believes the project will help develop their community while respecting the environment and their cultural heritage. The project will also foster the business diversification that Splatsin First Nation has been actively working on for the last few years, bringing social benefits and good job opportunities to the area. They expect to create about 400 short term and long term jobs. Sorgent.e employs over 200 people and runs 1,000 megawatts of projects, applying innovative solutions and working with local communities in 25 countries. Sorgent.e owns and operates approximately 100 megawatts of hydro, wind, and solar plants in Italy and Chile worth over $140 million, along with several projects in Canada and South/Central America. “We are an international group that likes to become local where it works. We are happy to be welcomed in your territory, where we want to stay with you for decades to come,” said Lucas De Haro, CEO Sorgent.e Hydro Canada. Construction of the Fosthall Creek project is expected to begin in the summer of 2015.