I call the meeting to order. We're a couple of minutes late, but close enough.
Before we begin with the presentations and the introduction of our witnesses, I have a housekeeping note. At 1 p.m., as most of you are aware, we will have a delegation from the Vietnamese parliament. Several parliamentarians will be here. We'll go in camera for an informal discussion. They will mainly have questions for all of you about the jobs you perform and how Parliament works here in Canada. Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate. I have a Liaison Committee meeting at the same time. Madam Ratansi has graciously agreed to take the chair, even though it's an informal meeting, to help direct the questions. I would encourage all of you who have no prior engagements to please stick around and meet our Vietnamese colleagues.
With that, I would like to welcome all of our witnesses here today.
By video conference from Saskatoon, we have Mr. Sean Willy of Des Nedhe Development.
Gitpo Storms Corporation is represented by Mr. Bernd Christmas. Welcome, sir.
From FoxWise Technologies Incorporated, we have Mr. Sam Damm. Thank you, Mr. Damm, for being here.
From K-Sports Marine Incorporated, we have Mr. John Derouard. Thank you, sir.
Susan Targett is here from Seven Generations Energy Ltd.
Welcome to all of you. As you probably know, you'll all be given approximately 10 minutes for opening statements. Following your statements, we will then go into a round of questions from all of our colleagues. We'll go as long as we can until we adjourn at 1 p.m.
With no further ado, I would like to ask Mr. Willy for his opening statement via video conference.
Mr. Willy, the floor is yours.
Good morning from Saskatoon. It's my pleasure to be here with you this morning over video to provide you with my words around how Canada needs to adjust and improve the current federal procurement tools for indigenous peoples.
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Sean Willy. I am president and CEO of Des Nedhe Development, English River First Nation's economic development corporation. I'm also co-chair of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, but today I'm speaking from the perspective as a leader of one of Canada's tier one indigenous economic development corporations.
Just as a bit of context, I was born and raised throughout Canada's north. I was born in Inuvik and lived in Fort McPherson, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Yellowknife, and Saskatoon. I'm a proud member the North Slave Métis Alliance, with strong connections to my Métis and Denesuline roots. I grew up in a family with a Dene mother and a mining executive father. I'm proud to say that I started in the gold mines of the Northwest Territories as a local indigenous hire. So began a long and healthy career in the mining industry. I was last at Cameco Corporation, where I was the director of corporate responsibility. At Cameco I led all indigenous community engagement activities in Canada, the United States, and Australia for all their worldwide projects. This led to innovative approaches to indigenous engagement strategies and plans, and included negotiating six community-based agreements in Canada and Australia. One of the most successful community agreements was signed with the Denesuline community of English River, for whom I now work. I lead their economic development arm.
English River First Nation has had a long history of working with the mining industry in northern Saskatchewan. As in any relationship, it has its an ongoing partnerships, but what English River saw was opportunity. The community leaders saw that the world wanted and needed the world-class uranium deposits found on their traditional lands. They knew they could support this development and better their communities through the creation of a business geared toward the uranium mining companies. Over the past 25 years, this has evolved into Des Nedhe Developments, one of the most progressive tier one indigenous-owned and -driven entities in the country.
Des Nedhe is comprised of four distinct business drivers. One is a retail and property division that works across Saskatchewan, including a 150-acre urban reserve bordering Saskatoon that contains gas stations, convenience stores, and commercial buildings. The heart of Des Nedhe is an industrial division, which includes one of Saskatchewan's largest construction and mining companies, Tron. We work with Cameco, the potash industry, and SaskPower. In addition to this, Des Nedhe has built a local consortium composed of local first nations and Métis communities in northern Saskatchewan to secure all developmental mining for Cameco's mining operations.
To mitigate against the risk of putting all Des Nedhe's revenue into the resource industry, Des Nedhe has pursued a strategy to invest in some of Saskatchewan's blue-chip companies. In 2014 Des Nedhe purchased a majority interest in Creative Fire, whose 20-year experience in corporate services essentially raises the bar in Canada for indigenous service firms. In addition to Creative Fire, in 2015 Des Nedhe, in partnership with Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, purchased 60% of JNE Welding, a large, well-respected fabrication and welding firm in Saskatoon. The last business segment of Des Nedhe is the recently created Sage Power, a 100% renewable power company that when partnered with our other Des Nedhe companies becomes one of Canada's only vertically integrated, indigenous-owned renewable power plays.
Des Nedhe is a leading example that we are proud to represent. It highlights what can be achieved through progressive and leading-edge procurement initiatives driven from targets placed upon resource companies by the federal and provincial governments. The goal was to create sustainable local development from these mining operations. This model has since been emulated across the country.
One of the questions posed within this standing committee should be how to spur further indigenous economic opportunities through the federal procurement system. The bottom line is that PSAB, the procurement strategy for aboriginal business, is broken. Des Nedhe was asked, because of our past experience in the resource industry, to create a white paper on how to modernize the indigenous procurement system. To begin this process, we filed an access to information request to obtain some additional information. What we found was staggering. Over the last 10 years, the percentage amount of total federal procurement allocated to indigenous business was 0.46%. Let me repeat that: 0.46%. Less than half a percent of all federal procurement goes to indigenous business.
Let's compare that with the near 40% of total services spend that goes to the Northwest Territories indigenous groups from the Diavik diamond mine operation or the 70% of the operations services spend that Cameco targets to its local indigenous communities.
How are these large multinational firms, which have to deliver shareholder value and ensure their projects get built and operated, able to engage in indigenous business at these levels, and how can we use some of these lessons to better the federal procurement system? Our suggestion is that we start with four key fixes: number one, impose departmental incentives and compliance; number two, create mechanisms and processes to ensure success; number three, prevent and halt corporate fronts; and number four, remove barriers and provide a mechanism for the defence industry to work with indigenous business.
Due to time constraints this morning, I cannot dive into each of these four suggestions as much as I'd like, but let's just touch base on each of them.
Data from the previous decade indicates that 71% of federal departments have not procured any product or service through an indigenous supplier. This is a clear indication that the policy only reaches far enough to encourage departments into setting targets but does not create any incentive or mandate compliance. Without consequences for not setting or missing PSAB targets and with no mandated formula to arrive at spending targets, procurement agents within federal departments face an uphill climb to reach these targets. Federal departments have an obligation to procure goods and services at the lowest possible cost while maintaining quality, delivery, and service and acting in a responsible manner. The omission of a mandate within the PSAB and the lack of any hard commitments to targets create an adverse effect for procurement departments, as they are not compelled to spend any additional time or resources to ensure they are meeting their targets. These barriers indicate that to be effective, PSAB needs to mandate a minimum departmental spend on indigenous suppliers, with consequences for not reaching targets.
There is evidence to show that this works, not only in the private sector with resource companies but also in the public sector. In 2015 the Australian government introduced the indigenous procurement policy to leverage annual multi-billion procurement spending to drive demand for indigenous goods and services and stimulate indigenous economic development. This policy included targets for purchase from indigenous business, mandatory set-aside contract obligations, and a minimum indigenous spending requirement based on a set percentage of all spending.
In the first year, the new policy surpassed all targets, as spending on indigenous business increased nearly 46 times—from $6.2 million to $284 million—and proved to be such a success that a new target of 3% of contracts to indigenous businesses was set.
Similarly SaskPower, a Saskatchewan crown corporation, introduced an aboriginal procurement policy with mandated targets. The introduction of a mandate to reach targets has been successful, not only exceeding targets but also annually increasing them. In 2015 the target of 1.5% launched the new policy and saw an execution of 2.9%. The rise in targets, backed by compliance mechanisms, saw 2016 targets of 5.9% exceeded with an actual indigenous procurement spend of 7.9%.
It is recommended that PSAB adopt mechanisms of incentive and compliance through a mandatory requirement of set-asides that is increased annually to reach a target reflective of the growing indigenous population in Canada. We feel this target should be set at 10% of all government procurement.
Next is mechanism and process. Many indigenous businesses can and do compete with all businesses. In fact, statistics within PSAB indicate that 60% of total business awarded to indigenous entities is from open, not restricted, competition under the incidental category. Although a positive indication, this should should not be taken to mean that indigenous companies are successfully developing the capacity and the capability to compete in an open market, and not that set-asides are not required. On the contrary, the PSAB must continue to help indigenous business grow and provide opportunities for the majority of indigenous groups in Canada.
The next fix is with regard to preventing and halting corporate fronts. Many indigenous businesses are thriving across sectors of the economy. Some of this growth can be attributed to initiatives aimed at maximizing inclusion of indigenous business and individuals. In many cases, indigenous economic development issues in both government and private sectors greatly benefit from strategic alliances between indigenous and non-indigenous companies. Partnerships, joint ventures, and strategic alliances have resulted in many successful ventures. Subcontracting opportunities have been a good way for smaller and less experienced indigenous enterprises to enter supply chains.
To ensure that benefits of PSAB flow to indigenous businesses, Consulting and Audit Canada conducts compliance audits of indigenous-owned firms to verify that proponents meet PSAB eligibility requirements for entering into a contract and meet requirements throughout the life of the contract. When the audit for compliance is completed, the audit results are communicated to the contracting authority where and to the audited businesses. If the audited business is compliant with the PSAB, it will continue to be eligible to bid on set-aside requirements.
On paper, the indigenous partnership or alliance may appear to meet the ownership, control, and employment criteria. However, in many cases non-indigenous businesses are partnering with an indigenous business to create a company for a specific government contract, which then dissolves upon completion of that contract. This is evidenced by the large number of indigenous entities not existing after the completion of a project, once they have served their purpose. Many of these arrangements are able to pass audits, as they are compliant to the audits, but have very little benefit to the indigenous entity. The creation of these corporate fronts takes advantage of set-aside opportunities, yet does not build any substantial capacity, training, or sustainable business for the indigenous proponent.
Last, with regard to industrial technical benefits, the industrial and technological benefits program is designed to ensure that Canadian businesses are benefiting from government defence and security procurement. Through this policy, companies winning contracts are required to spend the same value of contracts in Canada. Within this policy, there are incentives and multipliers created to target spending in key areas, resulting in billions of dollars procured to Canadian companies.
However, the same issues that federal departments face with PSAB are created for prime military contractors. A lack of mandate, incentives, and compliance mechanisms to work with indigenous firms has prevented a large segment of the indigenous population from participating in and taking advantage of these opportunities.
Between 2007 and 2016, the Department of National Defence was the highest-spending department, with procurement spending of over $66 billion. Governments around the world recognize the importance of a strong defence sector, not only for national security but to fuel economic growth. Through defence spending, the Canadian government's investments in defence-related goods and services have generated economic benefits through policies that have encouraged prime contractors to invest in and grow the private sector. Multipliers have been used to target investments in research institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises, technological development, and firms with the potential for exports. This has resulted in billions of dollars of procurement and investment in the private sector.
However, the policy has not incentivized or targeted spending to indigenous suppliers. This is clearly evident, as the Department of National Defence has spent only $37 million of the $66 billion, 0.06%, over the last decade on indigenous suppliers. If Canada's commitment to rebuilding the relationship with indigenous people and advancing economic development is genuine, the establishment of incentives for the highest-spending department must not be overlooked.
The industrial and technological benefits policy has been used as a successful tool for targeting spending and investment. To ensure that the procurement policies provide a clear and consistent incentive to prime contractors to enhance the participation of indigenous suppliers in their supply chain, an indigenous multiplier within the policy will support long-term sustainability and growth of indigenous suppliers within Canada's defence sector and fuel economic growth across the country.
Today one of the biggest and most successful economic development initiatives in Canada is excluding the indigenous population of the country. This investment and retooling of Canada's federal procurement system has a tremendous upside for Canada and indigenous peoples if done correctly. It is key that we get this right, as it will add value to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I want to say wela'lin to Mr. Willy. If he had a mike to drop, I think that was it. That was awesome. He said it perfectly.
I assure you Mr. Willy and I have not communicated whatsoever, but I'm basically echoing what he said. It's 100% right on.
I'd like to add some things. I have one other recommendation that might help the situation.
Before we get to that, Gitpo Storms is a company that involves former national chiefs Ovide Mercredi, Matthew Coon Come, Shawn Atleo, and Chief Roger Augustine. We formed this company to go after opportunities in the global marketplace and to seek a better way of engaging and reconciling indigenous economies with the global economies. We're bringing to bear a lot of our social, legal, and political expertise.
I also happen to be the former CEO of a very successful first nation called Membertou. The story, which you may have heard, is that we started at $4 million, and currently we have revenues of about $120 million a year. That was based on utilizing a business model and a strong governance model and attempting to get procurement opportunities, but basically doing it on our own from Cape Breton Island, Unama'ki, a very impoverished area.
To pick up on a few items from Mr. Willy's presentation—it's worked out nicely—military procurement is interesting. We partnered with Boeing and Lockheed Martin way back when procurement for the Sea King helicopters was to take place. Boeing came to us, as did Lockheed Martin, because we were the only first nation that ever achieved ISO 9001 designation on our management systems. They said to us specifically they came because we had this designation and they were told directly or implicitly that they had to get first nations involvement. That was a shocker at that time, a turning of the new years.
We moved on and did some things, and eventually another company, Sikorsky, won and that opportunity left, but the resulting partnership between those two entities had a pretty impactful benefit for the community generally, on other things that had nothing to do with helicopters and probably nothing to do with this committee's work.
The other one that was touched upon that's important to talk about currently is that opportunities are vast across the country. My colleagues and I travel in North America and South America and deal with lots of indigenous groups. The private sector does a fairly good job in creating procurement opportunities, but wherever we go, quite frankly, government does not, to be blunt. Right now you have a $25-billion shipyard contract that the Irvings have. If we talk to them, they will say to us quite bluntly that they don't have to deal with us because government doesn't tell them to. That's $25 billion in the Atlantic region and in the B.C. region, but you're not going to do anything with indigenous peoples? Yes, that's right. Wow. Okay.
I hope you take that into consideration. I brought this up already with Industry Canada and Indian Affairs and all kinds of other departments, because it's obviously quite frustrating. I know Mr. Willy touched upon it. He's not getting as impassioned as I am about this, but it's a system that cries for change.
The one thing I wanted to end with is the fact that the current system doesn't work. I personally think it's a joke that you sign up under the Industry Canada website. Gitpo Storms, this is what you provide. Membertou First Nation, this is what you provide. Any band or any development corporation, this is what you provide. Then we wait—we don't wait, but we supposedly wait—for all these amazing opportunities to come.
I can tell you, both from working with a company and as a private individual, as a lawyer with my own law firm, that in about 23 years of engaging in that system, I have not received one single phone call, email, or letter that says, “We would like you to bid on this project.”
There's clearly something wrong there that has to be changed.
In summary, Mr. Chair, there's a really good system in the United States called the National Minority Supplier Development Council procurement plan. It basically says that any entity that gets government funding must create a preferred Native American minority supplier opportunity. I think that would go a long way for Canada in terms of reconciling with our communities, whether Métis, Inuit, on reserve, or off reserve.
You're going to spend the money, and we have the capacity. There are companies here that have the capacity. There are 60,000 to 70,000 companies, including those from first nations and other communities, that can do this type of work within these opportunities, but we're just not getting the breaks. Unfortunately, the Government of Canada is going to have to say, “We want this to happen, and if you don't do it, you do not get funding.” It's as simple as that.
Thank you very much.
First I'd like to acknowledge that we're on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people. Also, thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members, for giving me the opportunity to testify today.
I'll begin my remarks by introducing myself and my company, FoxWise Technologies. I'll then briefly discuss my experience with PSAB and the set-aside program, and some changes that I would suggest be made to improve the policy.
FoxWise is also an SME, so I will provide some adjustments that I think could be made to enhance our access to procurement opportunities.
First nations are the fastest-growing population in Canada, and over 50% of our population is under 25 years old. We are the workforce of tomorrow.
My name is Sam Damm. I'm an Ojibway from the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, in southern Ontario. I'm the founder of FoxWise Technologies, which is a 100% first-nation-owned IT company that I started in 2000. I'm proud to say that in February we will be celebrating our 18th year in business.
From day one, FoxWise has actively sought to recruit, train, and hire an indigenous workforce, and over the years we have employed over 40 first nations people. We currently do business with all levels of government, and we compete through the set-aside program as well as through the open markets.
A couple of examples of project wins for FoxWise include our Shared Services Canada set-aside HP desktop procurement, which equalled about $1.5 million in revenue. Another contract worth mentioning is our ongoing project with the Child Development Institute, which has been about $1.2 million over the last two years.
I feel that set-asides are important because they can be great door-openers. They can provide quicker procurement process timelines. They give indigenous companies the opportunity to bid on larger procurements that we may not normally have exposure to. This encourages indigenous and non-indigenous companies to partner.
Capacity-building is also an obvious result of winning set-asides. The wins provide the opportunity for us to recruit, train, mentor, and hire first nations staff. The skills they acquire through FoxWise are transferable and create opportunity for them to work either within FoxWise, within corporate Canada, or within the first nation community, which is good for the Canadian economy.
Overall, set-asides are great for first nations, and we encourage the Government of Canada to consider increasing the number of set-asides. The City of Toronto recently launched their social procurement program, and they set a threshold under which set-asides must be considered first. The threshold is $50,000. They must get three bids, and one of them has to be from a certified diverse supplier. The program is working very well.
Some set-aside challenges include lack of education within the government departments. I think there should be more active outreach and education on the set-aside program. There are some misconceptions out there. Some groups think that the set-aside program is not a competitive process. I also think trade shows would give the indigenous companies the opportunity to engage with potential clients face to face.
A big one for me is reporting. I understand the federal government believes that there is more set-aside success now than ever before, but I wonder if the reporting is accurate. Is the reporting based on set-aside standing offers and supply arrangements that have been awarded, or is it based on the amount of revenue generated through those contracts? I think that's a very important point.
Another aspect is corporate reference requirements. While trying to meet mandatory RFP requirements, there should always be an alignment of references based on the scope of the procurement.
In conclusion, it's very timely for the Government of Canada to modernize its procurement practices, and given that INAC is currently deliberating the modernization of PSAB, I feel this is an excellent opportunity to make some simple adjustments to the set-aside policy that could radically improve the participation of indigenous businesses.
As I said earlier, it's my belief that the set-aside program can be specifically improved by, one, greater outreach to indigenous businesses by government; two, more accurate reporting on business completed; and three, by setting a threshold under which set-asides must be considered first. Also, SMEs can be given greater access to procurement opportunities through reforms to corporate reference requirements.
I just want to thank you again, Mr. Chair and honourable members, for your time today. I'd be pleased to answer any questions.
Mr. Chair and committee, thank you for the invitation to come and shed some light on our experience with the PSAB program.
Today I am accompanied by Donelda DeLaRonde, the executive director of Red Sky Métis Independent Nation.
I will be brief in order to save some time for questioning.
As an owner of K-Sports Marine for 27 years, which is 100% aboriginal owned, I have been working with the PSAB program for eight years with very limited success. Over the years we have experienced a lack of willingness to use the program as the PSAB policy states. This has been an issue from the onset; it's not new. All the purchasing departments think they have a choice in dispersing the procurement. That's not the way the PSAB policy is written. They have to use it—it's mandatory—if they are procuring to communities that are 80% populated or more.
I have attended many aboriginal government meetings where they tell the audience that this specific program is there for them to use. Let me tell you, with eight years' experience, it's not. What they are telling aboriginal business and what happens in terms of executing a program are two different things. It simply doesn't work.
One of the biggest issues is that the program is clearly defined, but the personnel who are implementing the program have their own interpretations of how to deliver it. PSAB should not be subject to interpretation for their own control.
I believe the program was set out with the intention of helping aboriginal businesses to establish themselves and to develop their own economic and social benefits. The only problem is that the system does not allow the program to do what it was intended to do.
I want to provide you with some specific examples. They're not in the notes I provided to the committee, but I have also provided these updated notes to the interpreters to make their jobs easier.
Number one, I was awarded many standing offers that were never used. The excuses given to me were that we're not competitive. In order to verify whether this was true, with the next standing offer, I purposely bid lower than the original manufactured cost to the government. I won the standing offer but was not awarded any contracts, and I wasn't provided any reasons.
Number two, the RCMP procured snowmobiles through PWGSC. I confirmed that the delivery of the snowmobiles was going to an aboriginal community. I asked them why they never used PSAB. They informed me of their interpretation that snowmobiles are never to be used by aboriginal people, and that therefore they did not have to follow PSAB. Again, this to me illustrates that there is no defined policy, and interpretation is used to control the procurement policy.
Number three concerns Fisheries and Oceans. PWGSC put out a contract for the purchase of a boat and a motor. After researching the contract details, I determined that the final destination was an aboriginal community. I called PWGSC and asked why this contract was not designated to PSAB procurement. The answer given was this: because the outboard motor was delivered to the manufacturer of the boat, their interpretation was that it was not going to be an aboriginal community, although in fact the final destination of the boat and motor was to the aboriginal community.
All I can say is that I need to become a lawyer to argue interpretation.
At this time I have more experiences I could share. I very much would like you to ask questions, as I can provide much more specific information to you that would be helpful in understanding the problems aboriginal businesses across Canada are facing.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much for inviting us to participate today. I'm going to come at it from a different perspective.
Seven Generations is an oil and gas and energy company. We produce natural gas with associated condensate. Our name comes from the law of the Iroquois, which compelled their leaders to consider the decisions they were making not only for the current generation but for seven future generations. With that in mind, that is how we established our company in 2008.
At that time we were a private company. We are now a publicly traded company as of 2014. We have grown tremendously, very organically, from having production around the 4,000-barrel oil equivalent in 2012 to about 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent, so it's a tremendous growth story.
We couldn't do that without our stakeholders. We have a code of conduct that lists the seven stakeholders we serve, and we see ourselves as not just an oil and gas company looking to make profits for its shareholders but as a company that is here to serve the needs of society and all its stakeholders. That includes the communities where we live and work, our environment, our shareholders, our capital providers, our supply and service providers, as well as our employees, and of course government and regulators.
We are among the top 10 producers. Right now we currently rank about eighth in our production, and we're about a $9 billion company.
We have about 800 square miles of leased crown mineral rights from Alberta. We are located in northern Alberta about 100 kilometres south of Grande Prairie.
That level of activity and growth doesn't come without investment. On an annual basis we can create jobs for about 2,500 people, with an average of nine drilling rigs running during the year. A lot of that is local, particularly working with all the communities within the region, including Grande Prairie and Grande Cache, as well as first nations communities.
From that procurement perspective we are striving to make a difference, providing economic benefit and providing benefit also from the social perspective. We are very active within the communities. It's about partnerships and building relationships. We want everyone who is working within our region working with us to see our project as part of their project. It's not just a single company. It's a whole community. For us, if it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a region to develop an oil and gas project.
When it comes to our first nations and how we engage with them, it's about having that building capacity and having training. This is where I think the government can help us. We do our own training through operator training. We provide some education, but that's only a part of the solution. We need to have everybody pulling on all fronts to assist with that.
In developing indigenous businesses, we have worked very hard on that personal level to go above and beyond. As an example, we had a logging company. They were losing out on the bids time after time, so we said they needed some assistance in how to bid and asked what we could do to help. We had one of our guys work with the company that was consistently losing these bids. We had them do some work on an hourly rate, and then they were able to get to the point where it wasn't just through working with us; they were getting contracts from major pipeline companies that were much larger.
For us, that is the way to engage to help those businesses elevate to the level where they need to be, but government can step in with some financing because capital is needed to build their businesses.
To carry on, what did we spend? Well, we've only been in existence since 2008. I'll just use the last three years, because that's where all our growth has occurred.
On average, it's about $32 million a year. That's with about 15 indigenous businesses with the five nations that we work with. There are many more beyond those five nations that are not captured here, but this at least gives you a sense of where we're at. If we're looking at spending $2 billion per year, it may seem like a small amount, but it's growing from where we started, so we believe that's a huge success.
We've seen some of the businesses go from being small, with trucks hauling maybe three to four loads, and now we're over 55 on a daily basis. Again, it's huge growth, taking a company that was less than a million dollars in value to somewhere around $4 million. It's a huge success story.
Another issue is the challenge of getting off of the reserve and getting to the jobs where they need to go. They're isolated. We worked with the City of Grande Prairie, their local Rotary, and business people to develop a transportation initiative with one of the local communities. That has been in operation since the end of 2015, and it currently continues to run. There's still some work in progress on that, but again it's trying to approach things from a personal way and making an impact. It may be small, but we know it affects all the community members.
We've been working with first nation communities for over nine years on education, training, mentorship, and all of those things that we're trying to provide to make a difference.
We'll just leave you with a few quotes here. Some are taken from the Assembly of First Nations. Then I think the last slide has a couple of really good quotes in terms of what the oil and gas resource provides. There are several local communities where our resources exist that will benefit from that resource development. They're tied to the land almost more than any other group of people, so from the environmental perspective, they can assist in helping to elevate resource development. We see it as a partnership, and we have to develop those relationships. That's so important.
I think government can play a role by helping to provide maybe lower interest rate loans to help develop those businesses. We can help provide them with opportunity, but we also need some assistance to get to that level.