The federal government announced funding May 16 that is intended to help Indigenous people and businesses in Manitoba to benefit from critical mineral production.
Dan Vandal, minister responsible for PrairiesCan, an economic development agency for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, announced while in Churchill that the government is spending $3.75 million on the Manitoba Indigenous Critical Minerals Partnerships Initiative over the course of three years, with hopes that the money will leverage more than $8.25 million in additional funding and create jobs in Northern Manitoba.
“This presents a generational opportunity for Indigenous Peoples to prosper from mineral development activities,” Vandal said in a news release. “We will increase education around mining, maximize local benefits, and focus on creating good jobs in Northern Manitoba."
Used in products from mobile phones and solar panels to electric vehicle batteries, critical minerals include some found in abundance in Northern Manitoba, such as nickel and lithium. They are expected to play a key role in the economic and environmental future of Canada and the world as more people begin driving electric vehicles.
Indigenous Services Canada Minister Patty Hajdu said reconciliation requires that more be done to support Indigenous self-determination by improving economic opportunities.
“Today's investment does exactly that – by empowering Indigenous communities to fully participate in Canada's natural resource economy,” she said. “The Manitoba Indigenous Critical Minerals Partnership Initiative will create new jobs and economic opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, while accelerating the critical minerals production we need for the clean economy."
A frequent criticism of the mining industry in Northern Manitoba is that it relies heavily on a work force recruited from largely outside the region and that much of the economic activity it generates therefore leaves the area rather than recirculating through local economies. This is especially the case for First Nations, who often saw no benefits from mining projects within their traditional territories.
“It is important that the economic benefits resulting from these opportunities be widely accessible,” said Manitoba Chambers of Commerce CEO Chuck Davidson, who is originally from Snow Lake. The MCC is also in charge of overseeing the Manitoba Mineral Development Fund, a provincial program that supports mineral exploration and workforce development activities as well as partnerships with communities and First Nations to advance the Northern Manitoba mining industry. “The federal government is creating a pathway to partnerships for communities in Northern Manitoba to participate and benefit from the mining development happening in their areas. This initiative complements current strategic investments being made in the mining sector and will have positive long-lasting economic and community impacts."
Supporting efforts to ensure Indigenous people benefit from mineral development that simultaneously contributes to a hopefully greener and cleaner future economy is important for Canada’s future, said Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
"The federal government is delivering on its promise to invest in and support Indigenous communities, including in the critical minerals space. Today's announcement is another important example of our commitment to support Indigenous self-determination while building off of Canada's comparative advantages in the fight against climate change."