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On April 22, Snuneymuxw First Nation and the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding that officially recognizes and adopts principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and represents “a commitment to working towards economic reconciliation,” according to the Nation.
Approximately six years ago, the chamber realized that the voice of SFN was “missing” on their board of directors and decided to invite the Chief and council to appoint a representative for the Nation, said Chamber President and CEO Kim Smythe.
That is now SFN Councillor and lawyer Erralyn Joseph, who spoke at the event and referenced the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s recommendation #92, which calls on the corporate sector of Canada to advance reconciliation in the business community “and support equitable access to jobs and training by Indigenous people,” among other actions.
She also summarized SFN and the chamber’s plans as outlined in the MOU, which include the establishment of a joint task force and an Indigenous engagement strategy that supports Indigenous business development with a focus on attracting and retaining more Indigenous workers, among other things.
“The reconciliation road that we are on is not a destination or a finish line. It is a commitment to respect one another, collaborate with one another and cooperate with each other,” said Chief Mike Wyse, and the actions we take now shapes the “kind of society we pass down to the next generation.”
The MOU will provide economic opportunities for Indigenous entrepreneurs, he said, while noting that at present only one of the businesses registered with the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce is Indigenous-owned.
“The colonial economy has worked for centuries to oppose the participation of First Nations peoples,” Wyse added, but an economy that is “inclusive of everyone, no matter their race or ethnicity, actually benefits everyone in the mid-Island region and all British Columbians.”