Saskatoon’s growth to be propelled by Indigenous economic reconciliation

The Saskatoon Region has an incredible opportunity for growth at its fingertips. The city’s first economic growth strategy, developed by SREDA in partnership with the City of Saskatoon and key stakeholders, articulates a vision of becoming a leader in Indigenous economic reconciliation.

“Saskatchewan’s ‘three Fs’ – food, fuel and fertilizer – are foundational to our economy,” said SREDA President and CEO Alex Fallon. “But I’d argue there should be more than these three so that we include First Nations as a fourth F. Social and economic reconciliation is possibly the most important economic growth opportunity facing this province.”

Action on this focus area has already begun. Over the past year, many Indigenous initiatives have been launched, including new businesses, supports, and partnerships that will see economic reconciliation at the forefront of Saskatchewan’s growth and development.

The recent provincial legislation to create the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation (SIIFC) is just one example of this strategy in action. SIIFC will support Indigenous participation in the province’s natural resource and value-added agriculture sectors, providing up to $75 million in loan guarantees for eligible projects.

Recently, Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), in consultation with Indigenous leaders and communities across Western Canada, developed the Western Nations gas bar brand to create locally owned Indigenous gas bars that help re-invest in the Indigenous communities where they are based. Sturgeon Lake First Nation near Prince Albert began construction on the first such gas bar in Saskatchewan midway through 2021.

Innovation in the natural resource sector has been particularly dynamic: Cowessess First Nation developed a tailor-made training program to help potash companies recruit Indigenous employees, while Saskatoon-based sustainable energy company miEnergy also recently signed an agreement with Meadow Lake Tribal Council and Mistawasis First Nation to employ band members and provide financial support to projects in the partnering communities. In the nuclear industry, three Saskatchewan Indigenous-owned companies – Kitsaki Management, Athabasca Basin Development and Des Nedhe Group – also recently signed an agreement to pursue small modular reactor (SMR) investments.

The world of infrastructure has also seen growth. The Indigenous Owned Construction Companies Group (IOCCG), which aims to increase the socio-economic impact of construction for Indigenous peoples, was formed in 2021. Furthermore, the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) invested a more than $15 million loan into the Kahkewistahaw Business Landing Limited Partnership in spring 2022 to accelerate the Kahkewistahaw Landing Infrastructure urban reserve project.

Meanwhile, SREDA has made strides in furthering economic reconciliation by adding Indigenous economic reconciliation one of its key pillars going forward. To support this work, the organization recently introduced the role of Chief Economic Reconciliation Officer, a position held by Milton Tootoosis.

“We need to be doing more to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #92,” said Tootoosis. “The economic aspect of Treaty 6 is crucial. By living up to the vision of a good livelihood that the Chiefs who were Treaty 6 signatories had in mind, we have the potential to be leaders in Indigenous economic inclusion right here in Saskatchewan.”

Milton Tootoosis

Chief Economic Reconciliation Officer