First Nation communities want to study economic opportunities

By CB Post Staff
Cape Breton Post
Mon., Feb. 8, 2010

MEMBERTOU - The five First Nation communities in Cape Breton issued a request for proposals last week for a study that will primarily focus on economic opportunities for aboriginal people.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office wants to gather facts on the amount of money each aboriginal community spends on goods and services.

It's also focused on maximizing aboriginal participation in large industry and major industrial projects in Cape Breton.

The deadline for proposals is Friday and it's expected the study will take four months to complete.

Dan Christmas, chair of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits steering committee, said he's proud to see aboriginal people participating in the economic development of Cape Breton, including the $400-million Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens cleanupt. "These businesses are gaining experience, building capacity and proving themselves," Christmas said in a release. "The success of this unique partnership may well prove to be the true legacy of the tar ponds cleanup project."

Since the office opened in July 2007, it has secured more than $19 million in contracts with the cleanup. It also developed and secured funding for a multi-year, multi-million-dollar training program for the five Unama'ki communities. This $7-million training program is known as the Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is now looking beyond the tar ponds cleanup and is now pursuing new opportunities, especially those associated with port development, the environment and clean energy, Christmas said.