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IBA’s have given way to True Partnerships

Nov 29, 2023

Impact Benefit Agreements seem to have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Gone are the days when First Nations negotiate piecemeal benefits from resource development in their traditional territory. Today, it’s all about partnerships, equity, and legacy.
“When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came out and the 94 calls to action, it was mostly public institutions, it wasn’t until the bodies were found, and then suddenly, public paid attention.”
And people keep asking, what do you mean by reconciliation? It means it’s such an open-ended term for many people, depending on where you stand in relation to what happened.
And so I wanted to break it down just quickly how I see it, said Michael Fox, President/CEO of Indigenous Community Engagement (ICE) – one of Canada’s leading national Indigenous firms specializing in community consultation, facilitation/negotiations, capacity building, and enterprise development, in a opening speech while hosting the CEN CAN Expo, Indigenous Partnerships & Critical Minerals Forum that was held this past September in Thunder Bay.”
“You have political reconciliation, which is kind of comprehensive land claims, modern-day treaties, treaty implementation, jurisdiction, and shared decision-making. These are kind of political negotiations. You must involve the government and lawyers. Then you have what I call institutional reconciliation, so municipalities, education, social, and health care. Those folks in that sector are moving on their own version of reconciliation in the institutional frameworks that they have to operate in.
And then you got economic reconciliation. Economic reconciliation to me is three different categories, partnerships, proponency, and procurement. And those three dimensions is what I see in the resource sector providing leadership in creating an enabling environment and enabling mechanisms for Indigenous businesses and First Nations-owned enterprises to get involved in major undertakings across Canada.”
Michael started his career at Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund some 25 years ago when just a hand full of Indigenous groups were doing financing deals on small projects in the north at that time. Michael said, “it wasn’t until the Green Energy Act came in where equity deals were happening. And the way they enabled that was under the Green Energy Act which had three dimensions that would allow equity ownership in projects.
One was study money, so communities can apply it forward to do their own site investigations. We all know there’s value in the data. The second was what they call an aboriginal adder to the power purchase agreement. So if you had a partnership with a community, then you would get extra pennies per kilowatt on your power purchase agreement. The other one was an aboriginal loan guarantee. And the aboriginal loan guarantee from the Ontario Finance Authority enabled equity partnerships.
All of this gave an opportunity for First Nations and Indigenous members to get involved in the world of commerce, which as we all know, wasn’t the case some 30 years ago.
So it starts with the partnership over time, the procurement, and now we’re looking at indigenous led undertakings. It sounds like recent news, but Five Nations Energy was actually celebrating the 25 years anniversary of being a completely indigenous-owned transmission line in Ontario, the first one across Canada.


Five Nations Picture

Five Nations Energy Inc., CEO, Pat Chilton stressed the importance of persevering with economic development objectives at a recent inaugural annual Anishinabek Nation Economic Development Opportunities Forum 2023. “Thirty-seven times we were told, ‘It can’t be done’, ‘You’re not going to do it’ — but we kept going. Eventually, we got the financing in place, we had the engineers, we talked to a lot of lenders, we talked to Indian Affairs,” Chilton says.
“Indian Affairs came on side eventually. We went through what they called the avoided cost funding model, that’s basically identifying what the cost would be for the next 25 years to operate those diesels in those communities and transport [fuel] and that type of thing. We weighed them against the environmental damage the diesels were doing in our communities, so they finally came on board and they gave the money that fronted the whole thing.”
Chilton says Fort Albany and Kashechewan were connected to the provincial power grid in 2001 by the Five Nations Energy power line, and Attawapiskat was connected in 2002. “It was quite a feat actually just doing that, there were a lot of naysayers,” Chilton says, noting that one woman stood up in a community meeting about the power line and told the men to leave so the women could talk. “An hour and 20 minutes later, they came out and said: ‘You’re going to build that line, it’s for the best for everybody. Then we can power up, we can do whatever we want with electricity, no more diesel, no more noise, no more pollution.’”
Michael Fox went on to say, “and so the trend around the undertaking is happening, indigenous led projects.
And that’s what’s happening in the Ring of Fire. Two communities decided to work together and lead probably the most extensive and most expensive environmental studies in that region ever. Like I’m talking about tens of millions of dollars.
Why are Martin Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation doing that?
Because they want to generate the information needed to make an informed decision. And the second is that it’s their homelands and they want to ensure that the regional infrastructure that they’re looking at is not going to impact their way of life in a way that tips the balance that the impacts outweighs the benefit. The benefit has to outweigh the impacts at the end of the day and the only way you’re going to learn that is by having an indigenous led environmental assessment.
You design the scope and negotiate with the regulators how you’re going to do that from an indigenous centered lens around the impact studies. When you go coast to coast, we hear that, right? I don’t know if you follow the indigenous business news. If you follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, I highlight what I call indigenous bright spots. There’s probably 98% bad news when it comes to indigenous issues, flare ups, crisis, but what I do is highlight the good news.
Michael shared a memory of the first time he went to Vancouver. It was because of the board of governors at Lakehead University had two tickets for this indigenous youth forum, or it was called a native youth forum back then. It was the first time he had been on that reserve in North Vancouver City.
He said there was not much to see, but now if you look back a year ago, they just announced a multi-billion-dollar condo development to address housing issues right in the city of Vancouver.
The East Coast, if you guys can remember, was this lobster crisis. And so you had the traditional ways of the indigenous Mi’kmaq fishermen with the lobsters. Then you had all these independent commercial fishermen trying to feed the industry over harvesting and all that kind of thing. The Mi’kmaq people of the East Coast bought the industry, Clearwater. It was a billion-dollar deal. All those independent fisheries, commercial fisheries now must sell to the Mi’kmaq who owns Clearwater.
Today that chief that helped lead that deal is on a speaking campaign trying to increase the confidence, the capacity, and the capital for other First Nations that you can do this too. Yes, we have to address the past. Yes, we must address the historical wrongs, the historical harms. We’re not going to talk about intergenerational wounds forever, but that shift’s going to show wealth in the future.
Michael closed off by saying, “And that’s the message I think this platform is trying to share by showcasing some of the speakers that took the time to be a part of the Central Canada Resource Expo (CEN CAN Expo) in Thunder Bay this past September. I look for these things everywhere across Canada because I want to shine light, because for whatever reason most news outlets don’t like to. I don’t know, if it bleeds it reads, they say. Bad news is what everybody picks up the paper for and so we try to shine light on the good stuff and the big stuff that’s happening that are indigenous led.
There were a number of guest speakers from both industry and indigenous communities sharing some of their opportunities and challenges for their people, communities, government and industry. It was a fantastic display of how some of the mines, junior mines and First Nations are getting together to achieve success for all during the Indigenous Partnerships & Critical Minerals Forum.

For this article and more visit the full "FORGING NEW RELATIONSHIPS WITH SUCCESS" feature in the Northern Mining Report below.

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