Linking the two narratives – of promoting a sustainable future and enhancing economic participation of Indigenous communities – can create a powerful impact with the potential to “define the future of this country,” says Matt Jamieson, president and CEO at Six Nations of Grand River Development Corporation (SNGRDC). “It’s going to be critically important for Canada to not overlook Indigenous communities and their rights, interests and aspirations.”
Society is waking up to the importance of meeting net-zero targets, and since these goals resonate deeply with the values of Indigenous peoples, this presents a “tremendous opportunity for Indigenous communities, development companies and financial institutions to work together in new and interesting ways,” says Mr. Jamieson.
SNGRDC was launched in 2015 with the mandate to pursue economic self-sufficiency without sacrificing the cultural values and integrity of the Six Nations people, the largest First Nations in Canada with over 27,000 members – made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations – and spread over 46,500 acres of land.
It started with the intention to “jockey for a seat at the table in a sector that is strongly aligned with the nations’ values of sustainability,” notes Mr. Jamieson. “Over time, a paradigm shift happened, and now companies are coming to us.”
Today, the corporation manages a green energy portfolio capable of producing nearly 900 megawatts of renewable energy through direct or indirect involvement in seven wind, six solar, plus one hydroelectric projects.
Through that evolution, SNGRDC became an active developer rather than a passive investor, and learned to overcome three main barriers that commonly affect Indigenous community engagement: “lack of access to capital; public policy that doesn’t encourage Indigenous participation; and inadequate experience for executing these projects,” he says. “With the right effort, public policy, partnerships and financing options, we can provide communities with the tools and funding to advance their interests.”
For example, SNGRDC is an equal partner in the Niagara Region Wind Farm, a 230-megawatt operation that overlaps with the Six Nations’ traditional territory. A recent partnership with Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB) helped to secure refinancing that allows the nations to “unlock incremental value of $400,000 per year over a 16-year period, which flows back into the community,” says Mr. Jamieson, who believes such outcomes can serve as inspiration.
Over 600 Indigenous communities in Canada are currently pursuing projects related to the clean economy transition, and Mr. Jamieson regards efforts to support them as “advancing reconciliation.”
Healing and reconciliation have to happen in a way where Indigenous nations gain economic might while retaining the autonomy “to control their destiny and be authentic to their values,” he explains. “With economic participation, we can break the mould of dependency and go back to exploring our values and future as a people.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Canada’s Clean50. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.