First Nations need community-based boost to northern economy, Manitoba chief says
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak grand chief urges governments to invest in First Nations-run initiatives
How should government help fill gaps in Manitoba's northern economy? By hiring more First Nations people and businesses, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak grand chief Sheila North Wilson says.
In a report released Thursday, MKO lists recommendations for the federal and provincial government it believes will help employ more Indigenous people and bolster First Nations economies.
The report encourages the province and federal government to invest more in First Nations-owned renewable energy industries (geothermal, biomass, wind and solar) to help communities become more self-sufficient and create more energy-efficient housing. There are 15,000 homes across 63 First Nations in Manitoba, the report states.
In addition, the report urges the province to do more to create community-run social enterprises, train Indigenous workers and help them get their driver's licences.
"By many estimates, 75 per cent of job postings require a driver's licence, but over 90 per cent of adults unemployed in our communities do not have a licence," the report states. "This training needs to include identification collection, flexible fine payment options, convenient practising and testing options."
More jobs for First Nations
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government also should do more, the MKO report says, recommending a taking a tally of positions in northern Manitoba First Nations communities that are currently filled by non-Indigenous people.
After conducting a jobs inventory, which MKO says can be done in six to 12 months, the organization suggests the federal government work with First Nations to develop training programs to ensure over time that those positions are filled by Indigenous people. Specifically, the airline, justice, health-care, education, administration and social services industries are areas important to creating better job equity for First Nations in the north, MKO says.
The report goes on to state that mounting health-care costs for chronic conditions such as diabetes could be curbed by improving access to more nutritional foods.
"Locally grown and raised food is ineligible for Federal Nutrition North Canada subsidies. The vast majority of the incentives go towards high-priced monopoly retailers whose marketing and sales strategies are contributing in making northern First Nation people sick," the report states.
Homes built on northern reserves are often "built poorly" by tradespeople from outside communities, MKO says in the report. The organization recommends the federal government form a task force that would look at ways of employing labourers from within communities, and focus on tailoring home construction to each community's needs, including "'granny suites,' sea container and modular homes."
MKO adds that a lack of waste disposal and recycling options on First Nations also needs to be addressed in the next five years.
North Wilson said the suggestions come from conversations she had with people in the north while on her campaign to become MKO grand chief.
"These community-based solutions are a huge step in the right direction and a way forward in the nation-to-nation relationship we all are working towards," North Wilson said.