By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Government of Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan to grow Indigenous participation in the province’s natural resource sector has seen some major strides recently.
For example, the province announced project funding for the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resource Centre of Excellence (COE) last month in March.
The $300,000 in provincial funding is being provided to support two projects to help advance the Growth Plan.
“The Government of Saskatchewan recognizes the important role Indigenous organizations will play as we continue to work toward growing Indigenous participation in the resource sector and this funding represents a step toward that important goal which will help drive economic growth,” Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said.
“Our government appreciates the valuable support the Centre of Excellence has provided as we continue to work collaboratively to achieve that goal.”
The first of the two projects will be a comprehensive study to identify the current level and types of Indigenous participation in Saskatchewan’s resource sector, including through ownership of resource companies, equity ownership in projects, procurement, supply chains and direct and indirect employment.
The second project will identify specific opportunities for Indigenous communities and companies to own or participate in projects associated with critical minerals.
“The First Nations in this province are not anti-resource development, but are rather interested in opportunities for responsible resource development,” Vice Chief Heather Bear said.
“These projects are an opportunity to highlight how the Nations in this province can contribute to the resource sector, while at the same time, offer meaningful employment to their citizens. It’s time for inclusion of First Nations within this industry, and this is a significant step forward in meeting this objective.”
The studies will include both First Nation and Métis communities and companies, and will be completed and submitted to the ministry in March of 2023.
Further in line with the province’s growth plan is the creation of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation (SIIFC), which will support Indigenous participation in the province’s natural resource and value-added agriculture sectors.
The SIIFC will offer loan guarantees to eligible First Nations and Métis communities and organizations to support investment in forestry, mining, oil and gas, energy production and value-added agriculture projects.
Through regular discussions with Indigenous business owners, Indigenous leaders and officials from major resource companies, a lack of access to capital was identified as the primary barrier to Indigenous equity ownership of natural resource and value-added agriculture projects, said the province.
The SIIFC will help to address this need by providing up to $75 million in loan guarantees for eligible projects. Minimum loan guarantees will be $5 million.
“The SIIFC is a good start to providing support to First Nations to be leaders in energy development if they so desire,” said Bear. I look forward to heightened investment and collaborative partnerships in years to come working with First Nations and the province on this initiative.”
“The First Nations are not against resource development, but rather, they support responsible and environmentally sound developments, and this legislation will allow us to work towards that end.”
“When the First Nations benefit, the provincial economy does, too,” she concluded.