On 29-30 March 2023, the British High Commission in Vancouver organised a mission for Canadian Indigenous leaders to visit London and meet with government, mining companies and investors. The Critical Minerals Association supported the event by inviting its industry members and mining companies looking to invest in mineral exploration in Canada to participate in the roundtable discussions at the Geological Society of London.
The Indigenous leaders at the event demonstrated the sophistication and curiosity with which their communities approach mining on their land, and shared a new approach to Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) – centred around Indigenous agency in business.
Jean Paul (JP) Gladu, former President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and member of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek explained: ‘We want mining, business and investment in our territories – they create important employment and business opportunities for our communities, and move people from poverty into prosperity, providing us with the financial resources we need to continue stewarding the land for the next 7+ generations. But we want to have an active role in a mining project’s development. Speak to us, work with us, welcome us to positions of leadership, and we will help you to obtain the planning and permitting permissions you need to help your project succeed.’
The Indigenous leaders represented Tzeachten [Ch-ech-tun] First Nation, Squiala [skwai-all-a] First Nation, Métis [may-tee] Nation, Missanabie Cree Business Corporation, and Mokwateh [Moh-kwah-teh] (see below for full bios). The leaders highlighted that Indigenous communities are not a monolith, with one each having their own distinct history, culture and values, which means we shouldn’t necessarily assume there is consensus among them. The points raised at the event by Indigenous representatives therefore do not represent all Indigenous perspectives on mining.
We must also be mindful that these communities have faced historical injustices which should be addressed sensitively. It is important to recognise this history. Many communities have also experienced significant social issues, including some of the highest incarceration rates and lowest education rates in Canada. Business and development opportunities offer communities the chance to overcome social inequalities and prosper financially, and many of their leaders recognise this, as well as the agency to ensure that a project is developed in the right way. According to an Indigenous Resource Network poll, 65% of Indigenous respondents said they supported natural resource development (Indigenous Resource Network, 2021).
Companies looking to develop critical minerals should firstly identify the local Indigenous communities in the area they are exploring. For the Indigenous leaders of the event, this process of engagement begins at the earliest stage of the exploration process. Leaders spoke of sincerity and inclusivity as characteristics they look for, of stakeholders coming to build a relationship with the community without having a predetermined deal in mind. As with any relationship, it’s important to build a shared understanding, before proceeding to business. Investors should be asking companies if they have engaged and built relationships with the local Indigenous community, and if they are aware of any territorial disputes in the area.
It is important not to paint everything with the same brush, particularly when it comes to Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG). Whilst Indigenous populations have strong ancestral ties to the land, are stewards of protecting it for future generations, and advocate for sustainable resource extraction, their views are not necessarily synonymous with environmental groups or NGOs. Indigenous people are also landowners, which means it is up to them to decide whether and how to develop their resources. It is important for companies hoping to develop critical minerals in Canada to recognise indigenous communities as key stakeholders.
Indigenous financial institutions can also offer an additional financing stream for exploration projects. If Indigenous communities have an equity stake in a project, they have a direct interest in its success. Indigenous people have personal links to their communities, and if they are on company boards, can communicate high-level decisions to their people to alleviate concerns.
The Indigenous community leaders highlighted the risks that planning and permitting delays can present to investments and proposed that working closely with their communities could de-risk investments. Indigenous communities interested in mineral exploration on their territories should continue to work together to communicate that they are open for business and investment and demonstrate that there is a straightforward process of engaging with them.
There is always more to learn about ESG and communities, and this event brought an important and interesting topic to the attention of UK investors, mining companies and government. For those who are interested in investing in mining in Canada, provincial governments are a great place for mining companies and investors to start building these networks and relationships. The British High Commission in Canada also recognises the importance of Indigenous communities and can facilitate links to Indigenous communities.
Thank you to the Canadian Indigenous leaders for taking the time to be part of this delegation and for sharing key insights. Thank you to the British High Commission in Canada, particularly Ben Morley for initiating the event and Hayley Ford for helping to deliver it. The Critical Minerals Association looks forward to continuing to engage with Indigenous communities and the British High Commission in Canada on this important topic.
If you’re interested in developing critical minerals projects in Canada and have any questions, please contact email@example.com.
Article by Kirsty Benham, Founder, Critical Minerals Association
Chief Derek Epp, Chief of Tzeachten [Ch-ech-tun] First Nation
Ey Swayel, Chief Derek Epp is a proud descendant of the Wealick family and is honoured to walk with the Xwelmexw name Weli’leq while serving his community as Chief. Derek has been fortunate enough to live on Tzeachten First Nation since he was two years old which has given him the ability to understand the importance of the sense of community and family while balancing the need for progressive governance to move our communities forward through self-determination.
During his educational journey he was able to achieve his Diploma in Social Services while specializing in First Nations studies. Derek used that diploma to further his education and complete a Bachelor’s in Social Work.
While serving as Chief, Derek has been involved in economic development as well as asserting our rights and title by sitting on various Boards within Chilliwack, the province and nationally which includes, Vice President of Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe’ Management Limited; Chair of Shxw Kwimel Cha Management Ltd – Tzeachten First Nations Economic Development Board of Directors; Chair of the First Nations Finance Authority’s Audit Committee; Board member for the First Nation Finance Authority; Board and Executive member of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce. Derek is an advocate for all forms of economic development, which includes majority ownership of major projects in our territory, as he sees this as the path forward for our communities, tribes, and nations to achieve the goal of financial independence.
Chief David Jimmie, Chief and CEO of Squiala [skwai-all-a] First Nation, President of the Stó:lō [staw-low] Nation Chiefs Council and President of Ts’elxweyéqw ([chil-kway-uhk] or anglicized: Chilliwack) Tribe Management Limited
A collaborative leader, Chief David Jimmie lends his expertise to establish growth opportunities while serving his community and the organizations which sustain it. He is Chief and CEO of Squiala First Nation, President of the Stó:lō Nation Chiefs Council and President of Ts’elxweyéqw Tribe Management Limited. He also serves as Chair and Vice President of Finance for the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group and is the owner / operator as a licensed residential builder of DJC (DJimmie Construction). Before David was first elected Chief in 2009, DJC built 224 homes and 175 apartment units for communities in Chilliwack and Westbank. DJC is currently building 309 townhouse units and a 200-unit condo project at Base 10 in Chilliwack plus 108 townhouse units and a 215-unit condo project at Shelter Bay in Westbank. Chief Jimmie’s ability to forge relationships and bridge the gap between groups has created economic spinoffs and partnerships that have been valuable for each of the organizations he works with to diversify revenue streams.
With a Master in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University, Chief Jimmie’s efforts focus on creating partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups. His traditional name, Lenéx wí :ót, meaning “One who works for the people”, embodies his leadership philosophy as he believes strong relationships are key to creating capacity for his people.
JP Gladu, Principal of Mokwateh [Moh-kwah-teh]
Jean Paul (JP) Gladu is currently Principal of Mokwateh, and previously served as the President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) from September 2012 until April 2020. Anishinaabe from Thunder Bay JP is a member of Sand Pont First Nation located on the eastern shores of Lake Nipigon, Ontario. JP completed a forestry technician diploma in 1993, obtained an undergraduate degree in forestry from Northern Arizona University in 2000, holds an Executive MBA from Queens University and the ICD.D from Rotman School of Management University of Toronto. JP has over 30 years of experience in the natural resource sector. His career path includes work with Indigenous communities and organizations, environmental non-government organizations, industry and governments from across Canada.
Currently, JP serves on the board of Suncor, Institute for Corporate Directors, Broden Mining, First Nations Major Projects Coalition Advisory Centre, Chair of Canadas Forest Trust and the Boreal Leadership Champions as well BHP’s International Forum for Corporate Responsibility committee.
Joe Tom Sayers - General Manager, Missanabie Cree Business Corporation
Joe Tom is currently the General Manager of the Missanabie Cree Business Corporation; a wholly owned company of the Missanabie Cree First Nation. He is a lifelong member of the Ojibways of Batchewana and identifies as Giizhe Anishinaabe and is of the traditional crane clan.
A graduate with distinction and Gold medal winner in 2018 from the Faculty of Arts, Joe Tom’s undergrad in Public Administration and Governance at Toronto Metropolitan University prepared him for a Master’s degree in Public Administration at Queen’s University School of Graduate Studies in 2020. He moved on to the PhD program in Social and Political Thought at York University shortly after and continues his studies and research into Indigenous Civics and Political Ethics.
He grew up on the Rankin Reserve near Sault Ste Marie Ontario, and spent his summers with family in the Indigenous village of Batchawana Bay where his parents were born and raised. His father and two uncles attended the Garnier Indian Residential School for Boys in Spanish Ontario, and Joe spent over a decade working with survivors in recording their stories, developed innovative healing programs and assisted survivors in filing for compensation for the horrific physical and sexual abuse suffered at the hands of school authorities.
After completing his degree in Journalism at the University of Western Ontario, Joe began his work in land and rights based claims for his home community. He successfully negotiated the return of a small island in the St. Mary’s river to reserve plus a multi-million dollar compensation package and a resource management agreement with the government of Ontario to provide for the treaty right to commercial fish and manage the fishery for all of Eastern Lake Superior based on Indigenous sovereignty and jurisdiction.
Minister Louis de Jaeger [de yag-ger]- Métis [may-tee] Nation of BC's Minister of Economic Development.
With a hospitality career that spans 35 years, former Restaurant Owner and Professor also teaches First Nations Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley in Chilliwack. Louis completed his Master’s in Business and Aboriginal Leadership EMBA at Simon Fraser University with a Certification in Indigenous Governance from the University of Arizona’s Native Nations Institute. Louis is the recipient of the RBC Entrepreneur Scholarship Award for business and holds a Certification in Indigenous Historical Impact from the Stó:lō Service Agency and Expanding Skills in Economic Development from the BC Economic Development Association.
Louis serves on several boards including Stó:lō Community Futures, UFV Senate Committee on Indigenization, Chilliwack Social Research & Planning Council and is currently a Director on the Métis Financial Corporation of BC. Past board positions include the Chilliwack Business Improvement Association, co-founder/past-President of the Stó:lō Business Association and past judicator on the BC Aboriginal Business Awards panel. Louis was the 2015 Federal candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada and in 2018 a candidate for Chilliwack City Council.
Patrick Watson, Director of Economic Development, Métis [may-tee] National Council
Patrick has over 16 years of Government experience with the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada in the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources, Tourism, and most recently Indigenous Services.
Amongst his achievements as Manager of Research and Innovation at Indigenous Services Canada, Patrick successfully led a Pan-Canadian team to support the first research project by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concerning Indigenous economic Development: “Linking Indigenous Communities to Regional Development.” Patrick is grateful to have benefited from the leadership of Canadian Indigenous Elders, Leaders, Nations and Institutions.
Most recently as Director of Public Policy at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), Patrick led a team of dedicated professionals to support good public policy development and programs designed to benefit Indigenous peoples. At CCAB, Patrick was able to unlock additional funding to support Indigenous businesses through the worst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, develop Canada’s first Indigenous-led Trade Policy review and propose substantive changes to Canada’s procurement policies to create new opportunities for Indigenous businesses.
Patrick holds a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations: Global Finance and International Trade from the Normal Paterson School of International Affairs (Carleton University), Magna Cum Laude.
Phonetic pronunciations from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/Indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/a_guide_to_pronunciation_of_bc_first_nations_-_oct_29_2018.pdf