Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Justin Bourque is thrilled that he was finally able to share some positive news.
But Bourque, who is the vice-president and CEO of Willow Lake Métis Nation in Alberta, is perhaps even more excited about developments he is not able to publicly talk about yet.
It was announced last week that Willow Lake has hooked up with Elemental, an infrastructure and sustainability corporation. The result of this new partnership is called the Willow Lake Métis Nation Development Corporation.
“We’ve been working on this for a few months,” Bourque said. “I’m ecstatic to get to the point of the announcement. But this is where the work really starts.”
The majority of members from Willow Lake Métis Nation live in the hamlet of Anzac, which is located in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
A mutual acquaintance introduced Bourque to Elemental’s CEO Chris Hornsby earlier this year.
“We really hit it off,” Bourque said of his instant connection with Hornsby. “So, it was an easy fit in developing that partnership.”
The hope is this partnership will be a model of how business partnerships with equity opportunities for Indigenous communities can unite Métis people across the country.
The development corporation plans to concentrate on economic inclusion for Indigenous communities. And it is hoping to create a model for prosperity and future opportunities for Métis and Indigenous communities.
“The big story is that the development corporation is going to be focused around exploring green energy projects,” Bourque said.
These renewable energy ventures will translate into green credits, offsetting Alberta’s oil sands emissions.
Though the Willow Lake Métis Nation and Elemental partnership was only officially announced last week, Bourque said work between the two has been going on for some time.
Bourque, however, just can’t reveal quite yet what those projects in development are.
“There are at least four in the queue at this time,” he said. “They are not small projects.”
But it shouldn’t be that much longer before some project details emerge.
“I think you will start to hear some announcements in the summer,” Bourque said. “One project is at the forefront and should be ready to announce soon.”
The news release announcing the formation of the development corporation said it will seek out opportunities in various sectors, including power generation and transmission, oil and gas, water filtration, housing, agriculture, transportation, environment data, aggregate, construction, heavy equipment and engineering.
Bourque said Willow Lake Métis Nation has lofty ambitions.
“(It) is on a mission to redefine the traditional relationship between Indigenous communities and industry players,” he said. “We believe that true reconciliation can only be achieved through equity partnerships that create community prosperity and opportunities for future generations of Indigenous communities.”
As for Hornsby, he praised the work that the new partners have developed.
“Working with the Willow Lake Métis Nation has proven to be a productive and progressive experience,” he said. “The Elemental team is fully committed to converting current and future developments in the spirit of partnership and to create and achieve mutual economic value with the Willow Lake Métis Nation.”
Projects the new partnership will work on are expected to be primarily in the Wood Buffalo region.
But Bourque said they will also be looking beyond those borders.
“The sky is the limit,” he said.
Willow Lake Métis Nation launched the development corporation not only to support and contribute to its local economy but also to seek future sustainability of its Nation.
The new development corporation is also planning to work with other Indigenous communities and Nations in order to provide them with opportunities and hopefully a more prosperous future as well.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.