New partnership seeks business opportunities for Caldwell and other First Nations

Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, June 15, 2021. (via YouTube)

Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs is excited about a new partnership that could mean more business opportunities for Caldwell First Nation and other Indigenous communities in Southwestern Ontario.

It’s called the Three Fires First Nations Ontario-Southwestern Ontario Infrastructure and Economic Opportunities Table, a mouthful, but one that promises growth for Indigenous-operated businesses, starting with the new EV battery plant in Windsor.

Greg Rickford said Caldwell First Nation, the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation, and the Three Fires Group approached the government with a proposal to explore ways to build the supply chain and tap green energy projects for Windsor’s new plant.

“As the supply chain evolves, Indigenous businesses can grow with it,” said Rickford. “If they’re in on the front end of this, we feel like it’s a great conduit for Indigenous businesses, small and large, to be involved in the supply chain.”

He couldn’t say how many jobs would result. That will be up to the table, but already it’s growing. Rickford said the City of Windsor and Stellantis will join it soon.

It doesn’t stop with the EV Battery Plant either. Rickford said it could become a template for other global investments.

“Stellantis is really just a part of the exciting opportunities for Windsor and Southwestern Ontario — how we ensure communities can benefit by working together and attracting global partners,” he explained. “It’s the way of the future.”

Kettle & Stony Point First Nation Chief Jason Henry at a provincial funding announcement in Watford. 14 August 2020. ( photo by Colin Gowdy)

Kettle & Stony Point First Nation Chief Jason Henry at a provincial funding announcement in Watford. 14 August 2020. ( photo by Colin Gowdy)

Caldwell First Nation Chief Mary Duckworth said, “we are ready to move at the speed of business.” Kettle and Stoney Point Chief Jason Henry described it as a “sea change.” He believes it will mean economic sovereignty for the Indigenous.

“Not requiring money from any other sources, but the sources that we can grow ourselves by partnerships like this,” he said. “By having tables like this where we can set the tone and set the pace for development in our region.”

Historically, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis have complained governments ignore their concerns. Rickford said his government is excited to hear the table’s recommendations, and has already recognized the importance of Indigenous input and participation.

“The guarantee is that not only will we continue to fulfil our duty to consult, but moving beyond that, to fulfil a promise that building Ontario means prosperity for all of our communities, and importantly for Indigenous communities,” he promised.

The EV battery plant in Windsor could create 2,500 direct jobs along with thousands of spin-off positions in the region.