Federal funds help Manitoulin residents engage in key industrial, business sectors

Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre, fourth from left, announced a series of federal investments totalling more than $3.4 milllion for five Manitoulin Island and LacCloche area initiatives this past Monday in Birch Island.

BIRCH ISLAND—Manitoulin area residents, entrepreneurs, First Nations and communities are being encouraged to participate more fully in Northern Ontario’s mining and minerals industry, as well as the aquaculture and business sectors thanks to a series of Government of Canada investments totaling more than $3.4 milllion. This FedNor funding supports five initiatives that among other things will enable Waubetek Business Development Corporation to establish and operate a Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Mineral Development for four years. Other funding recipients include LaCloche and Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC), Sheshegwaning First Nation and March of Dimes Canada.

Paul Lefebvre, Member of Parliament for Sudbury, made the announcement Tuesday on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Minister Responsible for FedNor.

“Overall it is a great day for the Manitoulin Island-LaCloche area,” MP Lefebvre told The Recorder after the formal announcement. 

“I am proud that our government is supporting Indigenous communities and local entrepreneurs in their efforts to strengthen the economy. These investments will not only address gaps in the workforce and barriers to growth, it will also boost business development in Northern Ontario, creating jobs that will benefit the Manitoulin region.”

The Waubetek Business Development Corporation receives $1,131,913 in funding to help establish a Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Mineral Development. A regional priority, this project is designed to increase the engagement of Indigenous people in the mines and minerals industry in Northern Ontario, creating new employment and business opportunities. It will also assist mining companies to address critical gaps in numerous mining-related occupations.

An additional $31,500 in FedNor funding will assist Waubetek in offering training on how to conduct water sampling for the aquaculture sector. The investment will be used to hire a youth intern to help with workshops or one-on-one training for member communities, as well as the creation of a procedure guide. The training will help foster business creation and expansion within the sector.

Mr. Lefebvre told the Recorder, “Waubetek has been working for awhile on this type of centre of excellence in the mines and minerals industry. This is such an important sector and there is so much opportunity for growth. It is key that Indigenous communities work together and build capacity.” He noted that Waubetek’s coverage area stretches far beyond the Manitoulin Island area, reaching as far down as Parry Sound. “There is a lot of potential in this sector, and providing this funding for what they are going to provide is a win-win for everyone.”

A FedNor investment of $1,600,000, through the federal Community Futures Program, will support the ongoing operations of LAMBAC for a five-year period. Serving the Manitoulin and LaCloche regions, the organization offers business counselling and access to capital services, as well as support for community strategic planning initiatives. This Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) is run by a volunteer board, staffed by experienced business and economic development professionals, and is one of 24 CFDC’s supported by FedNor in Northern Ontario.

“LAMBAC has been in existence for 33 years and the work they do is amazing for the Manitoulin-LaCloche area,” Mr. Lefebvre told The Recorder. “To be able to confirm funding for a five-year period is key to its ongoing operations. They have been asking for long term funding for a long time, which helps them in the work they do in working with individuals and entrepreneurs in providing grants to get their businesses started.”

“This long-term funding is key, something the government is very sensitive about,” Mr. Lefebvre continued. “These type of agencies don’t want to have to apply for funding every year, and with long term funding they can concentrate on the valuable work they do.”

To pave the way for the growth of the aquaculture and tourism operations FedNor is investing $713,706 in Sheshegwaning First Nation. Specifically, the funding will be used for road upgrades to improve safety and access for large supply trucks and tourist visitors, enabling the community to scale up its trout farm and attract more visitors to its coastal hiking trail and eco-lodge.

“For Sheshegwaning they wanted the funding for road upkeep, and they want to bring more people into the community through tourism and visitors and this is hard to do if the infrastructure is not there.”  

With a FedNor contribution of $15,000, the March of Dimes Canada, on behalf of the United Manitoulin Transportation (UMT) steering committee, is undertaking a feasibility study and implementation plan to offer accessible rural transportation services for workers, students and others in need. The overall goal is development of a collaborative approach that will increase access to employment, training, shopping and a variety of services on Manitoulin Island. The final report will serve as a template to guide other regions in addressing similar issues.

“This organization is working towards helping to provide key resources for people in terms of transportation and what local residents want to see provided in terms of services,” said Mr. Lefebvre. “They are aiming to serve the needs of the people on the Island,” said Mr. Lefebvre. “This is the first step to identify the needs and the potential.”

“In 2015, at the request of First Nation leaders throughout our region, Waubetek developed and launched a mining strategy that would help ensure meaningful engagement, build capacity and create much needed employment for our First Nation people and help foster more Indigenous businesses opportunities in the mining industry,” said Martin Bayer, chair of Waubetek Business Development Corporation. “The strategy was developed through engagement sessions with our community rights holders. Our First Nations primary interest is to ensure that we are adequately consulted when it comes to mining and exploration within our traditional territories and to ensure that we have more opportunities to participate in the benefits that might come from this development in a sustainable way, including meaningful jobs, business opportunities, joint management and care of the lands on which these projects operate.”

“A Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development would help our communities build capacity and advance our interests and build a clearing house of industry information about things like leading practices and processes that are needed by our First Nations,” he said. “We are grateful that FedNor also sees the benefits of helping to establish a Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development.”