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Senators Gerry St.Germain, left, and Nick Sibbeston were in town this week to speak to aboriginal leaders and businesses about regional business successes. - Jason Unrau/NNSL photo

Aboriginal business works

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Mar 25/05) - Senators Nick Sibbeston and Gerry St.Germain visited aboriginal leaders and business owners in Inuvik this week, to learn what has made this region a success in terms of economic development.

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the pair are on a country-wide fact-finding mission to formulate a "recipe for success" for potential and current aboriginal businesses.

"Of course, it won't be a one-size fits all approach," said Sibbeston, a former NWT premier.

"We're doing this so we can say to government 'if you are interested in assisting aboriginal people, it's essential these elements are there."

And solid leadership, location and jurisdiction are essential to success, says Sibbeston, which is part of the reason he and St.Germain came to the Beaufort-Delta.

"We've come North because there is a success story here," said St.Germain.

While admitting that much of the region's economic windfall is due to its proximity to a natural resources bounty, Sibbeston was quick to credit the solid leadership here.

"People like Nellie Cournoyea are insightful and visionary leaders," he said. "And with the Inuvialuit and Gwich'in peoples' respective land claims, they have jurisdiction over their resources."

Sibbeston also spoke of the differences between the North and the south, with respect to

aboriginal people's involvement in all facets of government and the private sector.

"In the south, some native people were completely crushed and not given a chance to take part in the larger society," he said.

"Whereas in the North, we weren't crushed and were given a chance. Today, aboriginal people here serve as leaders (in the legislative assembly), work in government, run successful businesses and take on other high-profile positions."

Not an easy task

The senators recognized that making the transition from government dependency to an industrial or wage economy was another big hurdle for aboriginal people.

But using the Dogrib as an example, Sibbeston says it shows that making the leap is possible.

"There seems to be a willingness and recognition that making the jump to a wage economy is where (aboriginal people) have to go," he said.

"The Dogrib, probably the most traditional of all aboriginal people in the NWT, have made the move to become involved in the diamond industry, everything from catering businesses to housing and transportation, (they've) become fully engaged."

Sibbeston says the standing committee hopes to have an interim report ready for January 2006, with a final report to follow in November 2006.