THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The announcement of more than $4.8 million in funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor) is a welcome boost for several Indigenous communities, businesses and organizations this week.
The funding provided through FedNor’s Northern Ontario Development Program and Jobs and Growth Fund will support 16 Indigenous strategic initiatives focused on community economic development and business growth from welding to bioenergy projects to the construction of six community centres. Almost 76 local jobs are expected to be created.
Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for FedNor, says First Nation businesses and organizations are exceptional drivers of growth, job creation and prosperity and are critical to the success of the economy in Northern Ontario.
It’s a very diverse group of projects that will receive funding but are all really about stimulating the economy and making Northern Ontario a better place, she said.
“A lot of them are community centres . . . places where people can gather, can share food and pursue activities,” said Hajdu.
Many community centres also host sporting events for youth.
Hajdu has noticed a growing number of new Indigenous businesses opening which she says is great to see because there are more companies developing in remote communities which ultimately helps to spur economic activity in regions that often struggle to attract new businesses or to keep businesses.
“We also see businesses growing in partnerships with non-Indigenous businesses and suppliers of all kinds of different products, goods and services that are tapping into a growing local economy here in Northern Ontario,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of mining activity taking place, a lot of natural resource extraction activity and many other kinds of diverse businesses, including tourism that’s really taking off.”
Hajdu added that some of these really small businesses have an opportunity to partner with some larger organizations and sell their products or their services.
With a little boost from FedNor funding, this gives them that opportunity to be able to develop products and develop themselves in order to take advantage of that growth.
Cory Meekis, chief executive director of Keewaytinook Okimakanak, says they are proud to partner with the Government of Canada through FedNor on the important community centre development project.
“The construction of these new multi-purpose community centres in our member First Nation communities will ensure our citizens have access to a variety of community programs and services that promote well-being, training opportunities and a variety of community celebrations,” Meekis said in a news release to The Chronicle-Journal. “We look forward to the economic opportunities (the funding) will bring to our region.”
The funding announcement coincided with National Indigenous History Month, which is observed in June of each year, to promote and protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous population. It also serves as an opportunity to recognize and celebrate First Nations, Inuit and Metis people’s history, culture and contributions to Canada.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal