On the announcement that the Lil’wat Business Group won the BC Achievement Indigenous Business Award for 2020 I was reminded of a strategic decision the Lil’wat Council made almost a decade ago that paved the way for some of its present-day success.
In 2011, I was asked by Council to develop an allocation policy for undefined revenues. “Undefined” at the time meant revenues outside of the Indian Act. Examples included payments from Impact Benefit Agreements, Specific Claims compensation, or development royalties. These kinds of revenues have been on the rise ever since the economic component of Aboriginal title was recognized at law in 1997.
While extremely beneficial to First Nation governments, these payments come with a lot of expectations as well. Even multi-million dollar agreements are not enough to satisfy the many needs in a community. Council, in their wisdom, decided to develop a policy so questions about how to allocate resources don’t flare up every time new revenues are recorded.
Developing the policy involved significant community engagement which both helped to shape the policy and create community support for its implementation. One of the community priorities was to create a fund for economic development investments.
While there has been some tinkering over the years to respond to unique challenges, in essence the policy has stood the test of time. As a result, the economic development investment fund has grown and now contributes to the Lil’wat Business Group being able to enter into new business opportunities on favourable financial terms. This one policy decision made a decade ago underscores the strategic foresight the community and Council had to give the companies assets that could be leveraged in the future without compromising important community investments in the present.
Read about Lil'wat's growing economic success: Growing Pride