TIMMINS -- The Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Services Association held its first symposium in Timmins on Feb. 19 to talk about the benefit of joint ventures between Canadian and First Nation businesses.

The director of the association’s Timmins chapter, Eddy Lamontagne, said discussions around impact and benefit agreements can encourage inter-nation partnerships in areas like the mining, manufacturing and forestry industries in northern Ontario.

“We are on their land and we want to help them develop with the IBAs and all the different things,” said Lamontange.  “We can work with them and develop businesses, companies, make sure they have proper training, make sure they have whatever is good for both sides.”

Officials from local gold, construction, mechanic and security businesses addressed the symposium.

Missanabie Cree First Nation Chief Jason Gauthier reflected on his nation’s first attempt at a joint business venture that went awry, but now touts around 50 negotiated partnerships.

With the Canadian government currently at odds with First Nations communities across the country, Gauthier said it’s not a new issue,  but indicative of the continuing need for indigenous communities to get on equal economic and social footing with the rest of Canada.

Better access to the private sector is a good start, said Gauthier.

“If we are willing to sit down and create those relationships and create those partnerships, I think that things will work a lot better.”

 “It’ll also inspire other companies to come to the First Nations and say, maybe it will be better for us if we work with the First Nations, rather than work against the First Nations, ” said Gauthier.

SAMSSA’s focus is on developing northern Ontario’s industries, namely the skilled trades that helped build these northern communities. It currently has around 160 business members.

Lamontagne said the association will soon be undergoing a name change to reflect its pan-northern mission.