Fort William First Nation Economic Action Planning

Fort William First Nation Chief Morriseau
Georjann Morriseau
Fort William First Nation Chief Morriseau
Fort William First Nation Chief Morriseau

Thunder Bay, ON – BUSINESS – First Nation and Canadian governments are both massive land and resource owners. Canadian governments and peoples have been rapidly tapping into their own communities and resources, and overlooking virtually untapped First Nation communities and resources.

[sws_pullquote_right]“We negotiate economic development at all levels. We are an equal government to all governments. We would like people to know this and be able to use Fort William as an example of what relationship building, partnership development and resource sharing and development is all about.” _ Chief Morriseau [/sws_pullquote_right] Fort William First Nation (FWFN), a small community along the North Shore of Lake Superior, is looking to become a tapped into economic resource partner for other First Nations and Canadians. It is a signatory community of the 1850 treaty, situated in a strategic location as the hub and gateway community for Northern Ontario. The community has a good opportunity to expand its business ventures based on its location and resources.

Open Engaged First Nation Leadership

The community’s newly elected Chief and Council and its administration held a community business and economic meet and greet at Valhalla Inn on Monday, June 17, 2013.  A vast amount of diverse business owners and entrepreneurs were present.  It was an opportunity for people to meet the new leadership and economic development team and find out who they are and what their long term plans are. The chief, council, administration and membership are comprised of a pool of talented and qualified professionals from lawyers to economic developers who are developing a new economic plan for Fort William First Nation.

“FWFN is a role model, leading and progressive First Nation community gathering a pool of resources to expand on its economic development and business opportunities within Northwestern Ontario”. Newly elected Chief Morriseau feels the FWFN community can drive a good economy and be a key economic partner for all First Nations and Canadians. 

“We negotiate economic development at all levels.  We are an equal government to all governments. We would like people to know this and be able to use Fort William as an example of what relationship building, partnership development, resource sharing and development is all about.”

Their new economic development board has been tasked with filtering through economic development and initiatives.  Morriseau’s key message of the night was “Economic development must be done responsibly and in line and in tune with the community needs, goals and culture for future generations”.  The community will be asserting their jurisdiction as Fort William First Nation and the need for meaningful consultation and accommodation as part of their business and economic development model.  The community is working on an economic strategic plan to identify what land, markets, business and viable opportunities are available to FWFN and what will survive within their lands. 

Chief Morriseau feels the benefit of partnering with a First Nation community is the fact they have the capacity, expertise, knowledge of traditional and modern governance and human, land and natural resources to build key business partnerships.

“When it comes to partnering with a First Nation, it shows partnership development at its finest and that First Nations can be just as successful and do succession planning and wealth management as a First Nation with other First Nations and we can also promote that within the non-First Nation sector. We can discuss, negotiate and create meaningful dialogues that are long term sustainable because that’s what we want to achieve through these types of partnerships as well.”

To build long term sustainably Morriseau says FWFN needs to have a good core foundation and a qualified group to assist and guide the nation with expertise.

“Sustainability is creating your policies and a foundation that outlives the community today and it continuously grows with your community. The only way to achieve long term sustainably is if your people are on board with you and if they truly understand what it is that you are doing and that’s where that balance comes in when it comes to economic development because it has to be in tune and it has to reflect what your people’s needs are.”

The economic team will seriously be looking at the social component, needs and values while developing a new economic plan to generate revenue without comprising social aspects.  The long term sustainable plan must include tangible assets and constant revenue generations with minimal economic, environment and people impacts for several generations according to Chief Morriseau.

The buzz of the night was how the business community didn’t realize FWFN was willing to engage in business opportunities.  The evening created an appealing atmosphere leading to FWFN looking like an appealing partner. 

“Many people said we want to work with FWFN. So, those were a lot of the comments coming out and people felt it was a very good idea to do. To really come out of the flood gate and say here we are, this is who are, we are FWFN, this is our traditional territory and were here to engage if you want to do business with First Nations.”

Diverse expansion on the reserve didn’t occur in the past because Fort William First Nation engaged largely in industrial development and there possibly was a lack of transparency between the First Nation and community members. 

The community is now highlighting itself as a diverse business partner for all sectors of business from aboriginal government, science, tourism, education, healthcare, culture and media to resource and technology.  Chief Morriseau hopes to continue building capacity and an engaged community by understanding the community needs, goals and resources and what the community is willing to engage in to benefit all off and on reserve members and their lands, other First Nations and Canadians.

“There was some major disconnection between Chief and Council and membership and that’s why we are here now. The new leadership wants to change the image again and to change the image of how we do business both externally and internally with our people.”

The leadership and administration are expanding transparency and development options.  The community has a skilled management team, intelligent and well-educate community members willing to contribute to economic development, natural resources like land, water, air and culture and businesses in place like gas stations, government offices and their own creditable construction company to expand services within their own community and to other communities.

In the past people might not have engaged with FWFN about economic developments because of consultation processes.  FWFN is expanding and reviewing its legal consultation and accommodation protocols, impact benefit statements and expectations as a community while and before they seek out opportunities.

“When it comes to consultation and accommodation our First Nations should always have their own consultation protocol. I think it’s time that we as a community sit down and we look at this consultation protocol and say when somebody comes into your house how do you want them to treat you and respect your home and your dwelling.  Having those consultation protocols would alleviate a lot of the consultation issues that come along with negotiating with big industry.”

With a strong leadership, administration, economic team, well-educated and experienced members, resources to offer, an economic development plan being expanded on and consultation protocols active and being reviewed all in place; Fort William First Nation is open to public business partnerships and opportunities locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

Article written by Crystallee (Chris) Mouland

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