Good afternoon. I'm pleased to be here today in my capacity as chair of the board of directors of the First Nations Major Projects. I am speaking to you from my home of the Fort Nelson First Nation in Treaty 8 territory.
The First Nation Major Projects Coalition is a non-partisan, business-focused coalition of over 85 first nation members from across the country. We support our member nations with the tools, capacity support and advice related to corporate structures and benefit-sharing models, as well as tools to promote environmental protection and effective participation in impact assessments.
On behalf of the First Nation Major Projects Coalition, I would like to start by expressing our support for the Government of Canada's commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
I also want to remind this committee of the message I left the last time I was here, in 2021. We need to ensure that the measures put in place to achieve the Government of Canada's target of net-zero emissions by 2050 do not disadvantage first nations communities, further creating hardship to indigenous communities. In any policy, hardship should not fall disproportionately upon first nation communities.
We recommend that you build indigenous opportunities into the energy transition, in particular clean energy opportunities with indigenous equity ownership of new projects, and financing/government collateralization of new investments. We emphasize that this degree of indigenous involvement in investment brings value not only to first nations but also to Canada's economy, in the form of investor certainty.
The coalition's first nation members are looking for ambitious actions from the Government of Canada as part of a global effort to reduce carbon pollution. As you work to develop recommendations on a fair and equitable Canadian energy transformation, you must never lose sight of the fact that opportunities for economic development for first nations in Canada have never been fair or equitable. Long-standing disadvantages present barriers to full first nation participation in the labour force and impair the capacity of first nations to compete for capital to support project development.
The development of a national benefits-sharing framework led by the Department of Natural Resources is viewed by the coalition as having the potential to address first nations concerns around fairness and equality when it comes to major projects and the energy transition, provided the framework is implemented correctly. For this to be achieved by the framework, we need to improve access to capital, using government loan guarantees as well as continued strategic investment in indigenous capacity and business readiness. First nations need to be included in the strategic planning and decision-making process for the transition to a net-zero economy. We need to do this in a manner that is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Despite the challenges faced by first nations, we have many positive stories to share. For instance, the First Nation Major Projects Coalition was proud to support the first nations leadership in the development of the Tu Deh-Kah geothermal clean energy project, led by my home community of the Fort Nelson First Nation. This project is an excellent example of clean energy investment that has enabled a transition away from fossil-fuel driven electrical generation, indigenous equity ownership, local indigenous jobs for those previously in the oil and gas sector and indigenous board management level decision-making. All four of these aspects should be at the centre of Canadian net-zero policies and should serve as a foundation for principles being developed to guide a just transition.
We must use every ounce of our ingenuity to decarbonize our way of life, and in order to do that successfully, we need to ensure that vulnerable communities are not left behind in the transition to a net-zero economy. A fair and just transition for first nations requires recognition that we are starting from a significant deficit in terms of both employment and education. Skills development, preferred access to employment opportunities and targeted investments are all necessary components of a fair and equitable Canadian energy transition.
I'd like to thank you for inviting me to speak today. I look forward to hearing from your study.
Mussi cho. Hiy hiy.