7th Annual Nation2Nation Forum – Strategies North Recap

Photography by Aaron Whitfield with Red Bike Media.

Some of the Strategies North team were invited to visit/speak in Terrace BC recently for the 7th Annual Nation2Nation conference, hosted by the Kitsumkalum, Kitselas and Haisla Nations. The theme of the conference was “Building Economic Resilience”, particularly poignant for the Terrace/Kitimat/Prince Rupert region, which has historically suffered the effects of boom and bust commodity cycles. The annual conference seeks to bring together Indigenous communities and local industry to facilitate partnership and economic development.

The conference paused many times to reflect upon the legacy of ardent social justice activist and past Chief-Councillor of Kitselas, Mel Bevan. His voice was regrettably missing from the proceedings, and many in attendance shared stories of his life’s work and ceaseless advocacy for Indigenous peoples.

The appropriate cultural protocols, welcoming remarks, and housekeeping information was shared, followed by a keynote speech from the President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada Pierre Gratton. Strategies North President Grant Barley moderated the opening panel to get things going, the topic being “Opportunities in the Mining Industry”. Grant managed to keep the conversation light, play referee at times, and even added a little humour to the discussion here and there. He must have done a good job, as the conference organizer Lisa Mueller asked him to give a talk on the State of the Forestry Industry on Day 2.

During the facilitated group discussion, Elder Herbert Morven of the Nisga’a Lisims Government Executive Council gave an impromptu and deeply touching speech on the history of resource extraction in the territory, and reminded all present to manage the land for future generations.

Strategies North’s own Frank Busch, Director of Economic Development, spoke on a panel titled “Business Opportunities” on Day 2. Having clearly heard Elder Morven’s comments about “less talking, more doing”, Frank opined on the position of Indigenous Communities in boom-bust economies. Frank explained that the general strategy of Indigenous business and entrepreneurs should be to “mine the miners” by providing essential services to industry during the boom, and then “buy ‘em out” when the boom goes bust!

As much of the business talk in the region centered around the recent closure of Skeena Sawmills, Frank suggested the local First Nations consider purchasing the mill and use it as a training facility until the lumber industry begins to boom again. The competitive advantage of Indigenous communities, he explained, is that they are not going anywhere, and have a vested interest in sustainable and environmentally responsible development.

It was a well organized and very well attended event that brought together leaders and industry participants to discuss the future of the region. While economic uncertainty remains, one thing quickly became clear: Indigenous peoples will not be excluded from the discussion, and will likely play a critical role in building a new, stronger and more resilient economy where opportunities to live and work in Northern BC are available to those who are brave enough to answer the call. Strategies North stands ready to advise and assist our partner communities to take leadership roles in a brighter, more inclusive economic future.

Stay tuned for next year’s Nation2Nation Annual Forum!