Thank you, committee members, for the invitation to speak about a just transition to a new economy.
Natural resource exploitation has undeniably brought both blessings and misfortune to our communities. The most significant benefit has been high wages for relatively unskilled labour. The negatives, however, are more far-reaching and insidious. The high wages have brought with them a raft of social problems, local economies dependent on a single industry and irreversible damage to the land and environment. These are not values that are consistent with our traditional values, but because of our limited financial resources and a reliance on provincial governments that can’t see beyond the quick payoff of oil and gas, we've been forced into this boom and bust cycle that isn’t good for anyone.
The Metis Settlements Accord of 1990 and the subsequent provincial legislation brought the promise of the settlements charting their own course, but the reality was self-governance under the auspices of a provincial government almost solely focused on resource extraction. A provincial resource co-management agreement appeared to be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the province’s dependence on non-renewable resources became ours, and this continues today with recent discussions by the province to now move into mineral exploration.
Recognizing the opportunities that our non-indigenous neighbours enjoy, our leadership felt little choice but to exploit the opportunities available to the settlements and prioritized education and training geared toward resource extraction industries. The unpredictability of this type of economy, coupled with the impact on our land, air and environment, and most importantly, our people, means that we must do a factory reset and return to our indigenous values and live in concert with those values and realign our priorities with them in mind.
Alberta has told us that we have access to funding through the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation, but again, the opportunities offered through this program are geared to exploitation of our land and people. To follow through with a reset, new, additional financial supports and investments will be required to advance our aspirations of food sovereignty and the pursuit of economic opportunities that align with our values, such as new horticulture ventures, solar technology, aerated concrete and hemp construction, as well as indigenous tourism, to name a few.
Some of this work has been initiated through the federal strategic partnerships initiative, which has enabled the Metis settlements to establish an arm's-length investment institution, the Metis Settlements Development Corporation, but with more significant investments, our reliance on non-renewable resource exploitation can eventually become a thing of the past.
The Metis Settlements General Council is also hoping to enter into an agreement on behalf of the eight settlements directly with the federal government on an extension to the site rehabilitation program. The program, which to date, has been administered by the province, has shown some promise, but some of our communities were not able to benefit fully from the program. Greater access will help us repair some of the damage caused to our lands through resource extraction. A just transition would also include compensating us for the carbon taxes our members and communities have paid while also planting and protecting millions of trees.
Ultimately, we know that self-government, rather than self-governance, is the key to truly determining our own future, but our shorter term goals include working more closely with the federal government on the opportunities mentioned previously, as well as accessing resources for more diverse education and skills training, and more culturally appropriate and sustainable infrastructure and housing. It is investments in these that will help set us on a renewed course that leads us to a brighter, more hopeful future.
I yield any remaining time to the chair.