By Ken Wilson
There has been much talk about economic development in the Cariboo Chilcotin lately and especially now since the New Prosperity Mine hearings started in Williams Lake in mid July.
Employment and economic development are the keys to growth in this part of the country and the City of Williams Lake along with Quesnel and 100 Mile are supporting the New Prosperity Mine.
Chambers of Commerce, many businesses, and those wanting to see jobs here for our children are also in favour of this enterprise that would employ more than 500 people year around and contribute tax money that goes to hospitals, education, highways and First Nations.
Former Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in Nemiah, Marilyn Baptise has talked about economic development during the New Prosperity Mine hearings.
She specifically mentioned tourism as one area where this could be economically viable, but this could take some time to develop.
One of the top First Nations persons for economic development in Canada is Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band since 1985.
Through leases and joint venture they have built business relationships that have created social and employment opportunities for both native and non-native people in the south Okanagan.
The Osoyoos Band has an RV Park, golf course, a resort, and vineyards.
NK’Mip winery was named number 1 winery in B.C. and second in Canada.
They have a business park, a construction business and a conference centre along with other businesses.
Frank Busch a, Cree First Nations, is the director of information and marketing with the First Nations Finance Authority in Westbank, BC.
He says he has travelled to about 200 First Nations and Metis Communities and said with a few exceptions he saw mostly poverty and despair.
Common on most of these communities was high unemployment, up to 80 per cent in some instances.
He suggests that Calvin Helin’s book Dances with Dependency changed his way of thinking about Aboriginal economic development.
Calvin Helin is a First Nations lawyer, economist and advocate for Aboriginal rights. Helin believes what has been crippling the Aboriginal community for 150 years is dependence on government programs and services.
First Nations must take part in the Canadian economy with private sector employment, business starts and entrepreneurship.
Busch also states that contrary to some politicized views of many Aboriginal policy types, it is possible to adapt to a larger economy while maintaining their Aboriginal culture, language and heritage.
Economic Development such as the New Prosperity Mine does not come along every year. All communities, First Nations included, have the opportunity to benefit from this new mine in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
Thanks to Taseko for keeping faith in your proposed mine and in the good folks of the Cariboo-Chilcotin.