A Chisasibi delegation trolls Quebec towns for business opportunities
Businesses from non-Native communities often venture north to Eeyou Istchee to develop entrepreneurial opportunities within the Cree Nation. In late January, however, the Cree Nation of Chisasibi decided it was time to return the favour, sending a delegation of six representatives on a three-day commercial tour of Malartic, Rouyn-Noranda, Val d’Or and Amos between January 22 and 24.
“My goodness, it was a crazy schedule,” said Chisasibi Deputy Chief Daisy House-Lameboy of the tour. “We started every day at 8:30 in the morning and didn’t finish until 10:00 every night.”
House-Lameboy was accompanied by Chisasibi Chief Davey Bobbish, as well as the community’s Director General for Operations (DGO), Assistant DGO, Economic Development Officer and the director of the Chisasibi Business Centre. Also on the trip were representatives from the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance, along with former Grand Chief Ted Moses and his family.
“We were on adrenaline the whole time,” said Deputy Chief House-Lameboy. “The experience was a real eye-opener, and very exhausting.”
The delegation toured multiple sites and businesses in each community; attended meetings, lunches, and dinners; introduced their community to businesses; and participated in networking with government figures and companies interested in doing business in Chisasibi. In each city, the delegation gave business and municipal leaders a Power-Point presentation about the history and culture of their community and the purpose of their trip, which was to find the means to become economically sustainable.
“We’re focusing on economic development for the community of Chisasibi,” said House-Lameboy. “We’re trying to find ways to sustain ourselves and our community. Not just relying on agreement funding or [operations and maintenance] funds, but looking at ways to make money. We have the Chisasibi business development group that can create businesses. For example, we’re going to build a hotel in the fall — the community can own it, and it goes back to the community. We can do infrastructure and town expansion, or even paving. These are all ways to make money for the community.”
A priority is housing construction.
“There are a lot of projects that we need to tackle,” she said. “There’s a demand for housing in the community with a backlog of 400-plus, so we need to find ways to build more houses. Regularly we build about 30 each year, but that’s not enough — and that’s not even including Health Board and School Board housing. The Health Board needs close to 200 units just for Chisasibi alone in the five-year agreement that they just signed, which they have five to seven years to implement.”
Deputy Chief House-Lameboy says the business trip will bring good things to the community — though she’s not yet ready to be specific about what they might be.
“There are some things we’d rather not discuss just yet. But there are other ideas on the table, new ways of approaching business in the community. Sixty percent of the community is under 30 years old, so we want to create jobs and training to develop our community and our youth.”
Above all, the purpose of the trip was to explore possibilities for Chisasibi to determine how best to move the community forward.
“We need to know what’s out there and available, what’s viable and what’s feasible, and what our budget is for that year,” she noted. “We will always focus on housing, because of our backlog. That’s just one example of job creation: the continuous work of construction. But there are other options out there — what are they? That’s what we need to focus on to create jobs for the community, for our youth. But we’ll have to have partners. We can’t do this alone.”