Representatives of the Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish shared the story of their blossoming relationship at a recent national economic conference.
Chief P.J. Prosper and Warden Owen McCarron participated in a First Nations Municipal Collaboration Panel during the 24th annual CANDO (Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers) Conference and AGM in Fredericton.
“It was a tremendous experience,” McCarron told the Casket.
The leaders shared their experiences in joint economic development and planning during a panel discussion.
Last fall, the two governments formed a partnership as part of the Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI), with assistance from CANDO and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
“It is a national project,” Rose Paul, Paqntkek director of economic development, who also participated in the conference, said of the initiative.
She described it as “a joint partnership and relationship building” between municipalities and their local First Nations communities.
“They talked about the project and how it is has enhanced their ability to work together, further, on projects,” Paul said of the conference.
Along with exploring economic opportunities between the communities, McCarron said “it is more about a chance to really get to know our neighbours at Paqtnkek and understanding some of the challenges that they face.”
“But also some of the opportunities that are ahead of them with the [highway] interchange project, which they feel is going to be a game-changer for the economics of their community,” he added.
“And, we feel, it is probably going to be a huge benefit to Antigonish County and the surrounding area – it is going to be a draw.”
She noted Paqtnkek and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish will begin the second phase of the relationship over the next couple weeks.
“We are very proud of the project – it has opened up some really great dialogue between the municipality and us,” Paul said.
“[And] working on projects together and also trying to identify, maybe, something as a tangible outcome for economic development.”
She added the partners are developing a “friendship accord.”
“We are going to be going through a blanket exercise and some lands planning – with the municipality and ourselves, here, in the next couple weeks,” Paul said.
She noted CEDI will facilitate that process.
“It was a great discussion – it was nice to have them [Prosper and McCarron] for the great work that we are doing down here in Paqtnkek,” Paul continued.
“Definitely, [it is] a positive reaction to what all other First Nations across the country [are doing], of how municipalities can work closely together with their First Nation.”
McCarron said there was “a lot of great energy” throughout the event.
“It was a really good conference,” he added.
As its website describes – www.edo.ca – CANDO is a federally registered, non-profit society that is Aboriginal controlled, community based, and membership driven.
Cando is directed by a national regionally represented volunteer board of elected economic development officers representing every region of Canada.