Untapped benefits await First Nations that forge ahead with economic partnerships, according to local MP Mark Strahl, speaking in Vancouver this week.
“Canada’s mining industry is an important economic driver that creates high paying jobs in Aboriginal and Northern communities,” said Strahl, who is Parliamentary secretary to the Aboriginal Affairs minister as well as MP for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.
Strahl was delivering the opening remarks at the recent Mineral Exploration Roundup event.
“We are proud to support initiatives, such as the Mineral Exploration Roundup, that will help develop true partnerships and create long term benefits for all Canadians,” he said.
Ernie Crey, band councillor for Cheam First Nation in Chilliwack, said he was encouraged by what Strahl had to say.
“It’s very meaningful when you consider that aboriginals constitute a very large percentage of communities in the northern parts of Canada.
“There are surging populations and these young people are in pursuit of good jobs.
“I’m encouraged by the initiative shown by government to consult with First Nations, and to support training initiatives for aboriginal communities, particularly the young folks,” Crey said.
Status quo just won’t cut it.
“We simply can’t go on offering young aboriginals make-work projects that pay little more than the minimum wage, and expect that will prepare them for a future that demands of them a greater level of education and skills,” said Crey.
During his speech, Strahl highlighted some of the initiatives undertaken by the Harper government to create “an efficient and predictable environmental assessment process,” while also underlining the importance of exploration and mining to the Canadian economy.
He stressed the importance of economic opportunities created by Canada’s mining sector and its benefits to Northerners and First Nation communities and underscored the Government of Canada’s efforts to enable First Nations to take advantage of these economic opportunities.
“These efforts include funding initiatives aimed at providing personalized job readiness support and skills training to Aboriginal youth,” he noted.
The mining sector would do well to look to these very often gifted, enthusiastic indigenous youth to make up a “significant” portion of their work force, the Cheam band councillor said.
Asked if he had concerns about this industry’s impact on the environment, he noted that “any industry concerned with natural resource extraction” gives rise to certain environmental concerns.
But with active participation of First Nations “through meaningful consultations, these issues can be mitigated,” said Crey.