Saying that “Ownership Changes Everything,” the Indigenous Resource Network (INR) has launched a campaign to provide loans to encourage Indigenous participation in resource projects. The INR is calling for a nationally administered, guaranteed program modelled after similar programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
“The problems our communities are facing is that there are few mechanisms to access the necessary capital for investing in projects and having equity,” said INR executive director Robert Merasty. “There are real, tangible solutions. Having a national indigenous guaranteed loan program is a step the federal government can take that will help First Nations get the capital needed to become partners and owners of the projects on our own lands.”
The national loan program should be guided by four principles. First, the guaranteed loans at competitive rates must be provided for Indigenous communities. Second, support must be given to Indigenous people to have a seat at the table with decision making power. Third, there must be no discrimination based on the type of resource projects proposed. And fourth, Indigenous goals and values must be the focus of the program.
The goal is to develop self-determination by developing ongoing sources of revenue for the economic independence of Indigenous communities. Other mechanisms that could support this goal include an Indigenous infrastructure ban and promoting Indigenous metrics in environmental, social and governance funding.
“Our communities are faced with a choice between poverty or development,” continued Merasty. “Indigenous ownership in major projects is a win-win for industry, Indigenous people and Canadians. A national guaranteed loan program is a no-brainer to move that forward.”