News from the North: A digest of First Nations news from Canada

Copps may be off the M?tis Christmas card list

OTTAWA - Canadian Heritage Minister Shelia Copps announced a $172.5 million (Cdn.) spending program to fund the creation of a national system of Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Centers, but she omitted the M?tis language of Michif from the list, angering both the M?tis National Council (MNC) and the Manitoba M?tis Federation (MMF).

A statement from the MNC stated the organization's concern that the money would be eaten up by infrastructure and administration and funds would not go to preserving Aboriginal languages.

"Millions of dollars that could go to protecting and preserving Aboriginal languages are going to get swallowed up just running the center," said MNC President Gerald Morin. "The Michif language is not going to be saved by a bunch of bureaucrats, books, movies and language tapes. The language must be alive in the communities, in the town halls, in restaurants, in schools and in the homes."

David Chartrand of the MMF said he questioned Ottawa's "pan-aboriginal" approach to the centers.

"From past experiences with pan-Aboriginal programs, the M?tis nation and our priorities get swamped," said Chartrand.

The MNC Minister for Culture and Heritage Ed Ducharme said he had advised Ottawa during the evaluation process for the centers that the program would hurt efforts to protect the Michif language.

Morin did say that the federal government's effort to preserve Aboriginal languages was a good idea in theory but that it took stewardship of the Michif language away from the M?tis and put it in the hands of a program he said has no chance to succeed.

Lautermilch gets on the M?tis Christmas card list

REGINA, Saskatchewan - As a federal minister drew criticism from the M?tis, the M?tis Nation of Saskatchewan signed an agreement with the province on Dec. 20 that would see gaming profits spent on making equity investments in M?tis businesses.

The deal, signed by Industry and Resources Minister Eldon Lautermilch and MNS President Clem Chartier, will see $2 million (Cdn.) each year for five years invested in the Clarence Campeau Development Fund.

Lautermilch describes the agreement as a "bridge to self-sufficiency" for the M?tis people.

Fund administrator Roland Duplessis told the Canadian media that the new agreement would allow for up to $300,000 of equity to be invested in northern and urban centers where M?tis live.

"We benefit the entire Saskatchewan economy," Duplessis said. "Generating wealth in the M?tis Community is our main goal."

According to information provided by Campeau, $6 million (Cdn.) in equity and other investments have already been made out of its offices since 1977 resulting in a total investment of $16 million.

Ottawa stuffs the stocking for Aboriginal entrepreneurs

OTTAWA - Industry Canada has made changes to the Aboriginal Business Canada (ABC) program that will make it easier for native entrepreneurs to fund ventures by expanding the eligibility criteria.

Under the new "enhanced" ABC, all viable new tourism projects are able to apply for support under the program. Previously only cultural tourism and eco-tourism projects were eligible. A statement from Industry Canada, however, said the program would focus on first-time entrepreneurs in new manufacturing, technology or business and professional firms.

Existing businesses could also benefit by the augmentation of market expansion and support for business innovations under the program.

The funding for the enhancement was built into the Dec. 2001 Canadian federal budget and is available immediately.

Industry Canada administers the ABC program, which has helped to stimulate the economic growth the entire country according to background information provided by the ministry. Some interesting facts on the program are:

oABC has helped over 200 Aboriginal businesses get started since 1995.

oApproximately 35,000 jobs have been created by ABC funded businesses.

oAboriginal youth entrepreneurs between 18 and 29 are included in the program.

oThe definition used for "viable" enterprise has been expanded to allow for smaller and a greater variety of projects.

oThere is now increased support under the ABC program to allow for Aboriginal acquisition of existing businesses when innovations are made.

The complete eligibility requirements for the program are available by calling 1-800-O-Canada or by visiting www.abc-eac.ic.gc.ca for comparison to programs in the United States or for Canadian Aboriginal entrepreneurs looking for help getting into business.

Preview of Next week's News from the North

It has been a critical year in the history of Canada's Aboriginal people and there are several key news stories that ICT has been following with keen interest. Next week we will be taking a look at what we consider to be the top five stories in northern Indian country.

This year-end review of News from the North will include a look back at the introduction of the First Nations Governance Act, the residential schools law suit, the David Ahenakew anti-Semitism controversy and the landmark hydro-electric power agreement between the James Bay Cree and Quebec.