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First Nation chiefs work to defeat on-reserve poverty, pitch pipeline investment at Calgary summit

First Nation chiefs work to defeat on-reserve poverty, pitch pipeline investment
WATCH: Officials are renewing efforts to gain momentum for Indigenous ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline. As Jill Croteau reports, it was a topic of discussion at a conference of the country's First Nation Chiefs.

The National Coalition of Chiefs is holding a summit in Calgary from Nov. 4 to 5.

Hundreds gathered at the Grey Eagle event centre on Monday to tackle one common problem: poverty on reserves. Part of the conversation centred around the opportunity to empower Indigenous communities and to increase their financial stake in Canadian energy projects.

Delbert Wapass, the founder of Project Reconciliation, said there is an opportunity for First Nations across the country to collectively purchase a 51 per cent stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline.

“We’ve been economically starved out of any large opportunities,” Wapass said. “We are always a recipient of — rather than controlling our own destiny. We don’t want to be dependant on government.

“It’s transformational, what money can do in a community that has none.”

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READ MORE: Whether on reserve or off, just under half of Indigenous kids live in poverty: report

The hope is to empower communities to be self-sufficient for generations to come. There was support for the plan from many in attendance at the conference.

Tim McMillan, the CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was also at the summit. He wanted to promote the relationship between the producers and Indigenous people.

“Our interests are aligned. There’s been a misconception about that. The number of times I’m confronted with how our interests were so different from Indigenous leaders was insulting to our industry,” McMillan said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would be open to Indigenous ownership of the pipeline, adding that they have plans to assemble a committee of experts to advise about the possibility of selling a financial stake of the project to First Nations.