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First Nations Mean Business

A new generation of Indigenous-owned enterprises stands ready to partner with outside investors.

Credit: The Ktunaxa Nation will help manage land bought by TeckResources for conservation. | Destination BC/Kari Medig

A new generation of Indigenous-owned enterprises stands ready to partner with outside investors.

Fresh off winning a landmark legal settlement that awarded it $65 million and control over 38,000 square kilometres of its traditional territories in northeastern B.C., the Blueberry River First Nation opted to start up a company last fall.

Credit: Natural gas operations in Blueberry River First Nation territory. | LNG Canada

Blueberry River Resources will devote more than half the settlement money to restore lands degraded by industrial activity, through subsidiaries including a greenhouse operation raising native plants and a land restoration contractor. But its mandate doesn’t stop there. It aims to create sustainable opportunities and self-sufficiency for Blueberry River First Nation members in areas such as renewable energy and carbon capture and storage. It will work with energy exploration and production companies whose activities were severely curtailed by order of the Supreme Court of B.C. before a recent series of agreements between the First Nation and the B.C. government.

Similar organizations are popping up or expanding all across British Columbia. Deeply rooted in their communities, Indigenous-owned companies offer manpower, logistical support and local knowledge in often remote locations where such services are hard to come by. They can also lend resource companies operating in these areas a measure of social licence, helping them meet their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments.

Credit: Joint venture Gitga’at Waiward landed the main site services contract at LNG Canada. | LNG Canada

Last fall, a joint venture between the Gitga’at Nation’s Gitga’at Development Corp. and Waiward Industrial LP was awarded the main industrial site services contract for LNG Canada, the massive liquefied natural gas terminal now under construction in Kitimat. Gitga’at Waiward had previously won a contract to supply structural steel to the project.

“This announcement represents an excellent opportunity to showcase what true partnerships look like,” said Joe Bevan, CEO of Gitga’at Development Corp. “It speaks to the commitments made by LNG Canada to use local contractors, aligning with economic reconciliation and the trust developed thus far. The economic success of the region’s First Nations is paramount to a robust regional economy.”

Further north, the Tahltan Nation Development Corp., established in 1985, is in many ways the template for all the First Nations-owned companies that came after. It continues to expand the suite of services it offers to mineral exploration, utility, forest and aviation companies and governments in the Stewart-Cassiar corridor.

In the opposite, southeast corner of the province, the Ktunaxa Nation and metallurgical coal miner Teck Resources have been building on a comprehensive Impact Management and Benefits Agreement signed in 2016. Five years later it led to a deal to jointly manage the conservation of 7,000 hectares purchased by Teck for conservation purposes.

In 2022, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations launched a new Centre of Excellence in economic development that it hopes will share best practices of development corporations among all 204 First Nations in the province—no easy task considering the range of circumstances facing rural and urban First Nations.

Credit: The Squamish Nation is building Sen?á?w, Vancouver’s largest new community, in partnership with Westbank Projects. | Squamish Nation/Revery Architecture/Kasian Architecture, Interior Design And Planning/Tandem Studios.

Near downtown Vancouver, the Squamish Nation and Westbank Projects have embarked on Sen? á?w, a high-rise community featuring 6,000 rental apartments that is expected to change the face of the city. 

Meanwhile Vancouver-based Raven Indigenous Capital Partners just closed a second venture capital fund worth $100 million with a mission to finance startup and growth-stage Indigenous businesses that until now often struggled to get the money they needed.

You name it, if there’s a project you need help with or a service you need supplied, there’s probably an Indigenous business that can do it.

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British Columbia: The Sustainable Advantage

First Nations Mean Business

­­­The Clean Energy Advantage

Lower Mainland-Southwest: Bullish Outlook

Vancouver Island/Coast: Fairer Shores

Thompson-Okanagan: Migrant Haven

Kootenay: Rooted in Community

Cariboo: Northern Crossroads

North Coast-Nechako: Export Driven

Northeast: Energizing BC