Departing Remarks from SFNEDN Executive Director Shaun Soonias

After nearly three fantastic years at the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network, I am sharing that I will be moving on in my journey. I have accepted the role of Director, Indigenous Relations with Farm Credit Canada.

SFNEDN has provided unique and much needed capacity and networking opportunities for our First Nations communities and that work of the Network will continue.

We increased our newsletter membership from around 150 to nearly 1000 members inclusive of government, business and First Nation communities and leaders. The key to our success has been positive working relationships with key stakeholders and I want to acknowledge the many great and enduring relationships we have.

I am honored to have worked with the Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance to have May 7, 2018 and May 6, 2019, proclaimed Indigenous Business Development Day in Saskatchewan. We also co-hosted the Intersections for Growth Conference and launched our annual Partnership and Reconciliation Awards. These awards honor and share the successful relationships developing in Saskatchewan between First Nation and municipal governments around economic development and reconciliation.

SFNEDN also hosted the World Indigenous Business Forum in 2016, welcoming over 850 Indigenous business leaders from 11 countries. Ernesto Sirolli led a group of delegates representing countries around the world in defining what Indigenous Development is. The definition created by those Indigenous leaders was accepted by Wikipedia and remains their official definition to date. We have also hosted a number of our Saskatchewan Indigenous Business Forums shining a spotlight on opportunities in emerging technologies, tourism, and gravel, to name a few.

We have partnered with Edwards School of Business to provide business templates and guides to our communities and Great Plains College and the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority on the SREDA Indigenous Economic Development Scholarship. We have partnered with the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO) to provide the Saskatchewan Links to Learning Conference ,and Co-operatives First to share the co-operative business model with our communities.

I have been both fortunate and honored to work with a diverse, passionate and supportive Board of Directors as well as the aforementioned partners. The most recent activity undertaken which will be released in the coming months is our Employer Project. The focus is on best practices and lessons learned around Indigenous inclusion in the economy, from employment to economic development. This project spearheaded by a number of organizations including the City of Saskatoon, Saskatoon Aboriginal Community Action Plan (SACAP), University of Saskatchewan (U of S), Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC), Gabriel Dumont Institute, Saskatchewan Health Authority, Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) and Medicine Rope Strategies.

This project also received generous financial support from Nutrien, Affinity Credit Union, SACAP, Saskatoon Community Foundation, K+S Potash, SREDA, U of S, Ramada, Hotel, KPCL, STC, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, SACAP and Government Relations.

As for my new adventure, I see agriculture as the greatest opportunity for First Nations to become financially sovereign, to apply our traditions and values to the land, and to build diverse agricultural holdings from farm to fork on our one million and growing acres of arable land; to get involved with the value added sector, and most significantly, to add a layer of resiliency to our provincial and national economies that has been largely unrealized. Imagine our First Nations citizens employed at the same rate as our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, providing good, clean, healthy food to Canadians and beyond and helping Canada to achieve food security.

My new role is focused on Indigenous agriculture and I look forward to connecting with new friends and old. If you wish to get in touch, my new contact information is shaun.soonias@fcc.ca