Canada Invests in Indigenous Participation in the Forest Sector

TORONTO- Canada's forest sector continues to be an important source of employment across the country, including in rural, remote and Indigenous communities in Ontario. That is why Canada is investing in projects to equip Indigenous communities with the tools to build greener businesses and promote economic stability in the forest sector.

Paul Lefebvre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Seamus O'Regan, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, today announced a $500,000 investment in Agoke Development Corporation, a forestry company owned and operated by the First Nations of Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls, based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. This investment will support a project to increase Indigenous participation in Canada's forest sector and contribute to the overall competitiveness of the sector. Parliamentary Secretary Lefebvre made the announcement at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada 2020 Convention in Toronto. 

The Anishnawbe Workforce Development Maintenance Program (AWDMP) aims to recruit up to 40 First Nations people, including adults and youth, to provide them with the training and technical skills required to join the forest sector labour force. To date, the AWDMP has recruited and trained 26 individuals. The AWDMP includes a job retention coordinator who works with industry partners to develop formal onboarding and on-the-job mentoring. The program also consults with First Nation elders to develop and introduce Indigenous cultural awareness training for employees, government agencies and industry.  

This project is funded by Natural Resources Canada's Indigenous Forestry Initiative (IFI), which supports Indigenous-led economic development in Canada's forest sector. The initiative aims to increase overall Indigenous participation in forestry-related opportunities, businesses, careers and governance.

Through Budget 2019, the Government of Canada committed an additional $12.6 million over three years for the IFI program. This investment supports Indigenous-owned forest businesses that build capacity and create jobs in communities while helping Indigenous communities increase and diversify their forest sector opportunities.

Quotes

"This program directly benefits Indigenous communities by helping individuals acquire the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the forest sector. The Government of Canada will continue to work with Indigenous partners to create opportunities in the forest sector that contribute to its continued competitiveness."

Paul Lefebvre
Parliamentary Secretary to Canada's Minister of Natural Resources

"Our First Nations that make up the Agoke Development Corporation have traditional knowledge and heritage in the Ogoki Forest. Our peoples have been living off this sacred land since time immemorial. It is paramount that our peoples play a role in any resource development project within our traditional territories, especially forestry.  This training program will ensure that our peoples' participation in the forest sector is prioritized, supported and valued. We are already seeing a drastic reduction in the unemployment rate in our First Nation."

Chief Dorothy Towedo
Aroland First Nation

"For the Agoke Development Corporation the training programs are key to improving the social and economic conditions in our First Nations and advancing our regional economy. As older workers are planning to retire, we are readying our communities to be positioned to play our part in filling the skilled trades gap. We are taking a lead role to unlock the immense potential of our youth and integrate millennials into the workforce by providing them with the tools, inspiration, experiences and personal support they need to succeed."

Mark Bell
Aroland Nation, Board Director
Agoke Development Corporation

"We are already seeing positive outcomes from the pre-employment training like the life skills, self-confidence building exercises, and wrap around supports for job retention. There is a lot of work to do to help our youth realize their true potential and make a career in forestry. This will require expansion and on the job training in other areas like road construction, harvesting, hauling and the skilled trades apprenticeships opportunities for First Nations. Through our strategic alliances and key partnerships with companies like the Nakina Sawmill, we are making sure that there is a guaranteed job and a light at the end of the tunnel."

Bill Spade
Eabametoong First Nation, Board Director
Agoke Development Corporation

"Over the next few years, we are looking to expand into other related sectors like construction, energy and mining.   One of the main reasons for our success is our passion to be more than just a forestry company. We are empowering community members to take advantage of the cross training to diversify their skillsets for other projects like the Marten Falls all-season road or mine development. Our training initiatives are aligned with our long-term vision, and are culturally appropriate. It's rewarding to know that we are making a difference and helping our peoples change their lives for the better."

Lawrence Baxter
Marten Falls First Nation, Board Director
Agoke Development Corporation