The Simpcw First Nation (SFN) is a member of the Secwepemc Nation based in the southern interior region of British Columbia. SFN currently consists of 700 members, approximately one-third of whom live on-reserve in Chu Chua, BC. The traditional territory of the Simpcw includes the vast majority of the North Thompson Valley between Jasper, Alberta, and Barrière, BC.
Historically, the Simpcw First Nation has been largely excluded from the benefits of economic development in the North Thompson Valley. To address this historic exclusion, the SFN created its economic arm Simpcw Resources LLP (SRLLP) with the purpose of generating income and employment for the SFN community and membership.
HISTORY OF SRLLP
Prior to the business start-up of SRLLP, SFN researched alternate different models for First Nations businesses and determined that the LLP business structure would provide tax and liability advantages. The LLP structure required a separate board of directors or management committee and thus moved the decision making for the business away from Chief and Council over to the new board of directors. This separation of the business arm and the political body has been a key ingredient to the success of SRLLP. Under this structure, the Chief and council of SFN are tasked with negotiating the title and rights for SFN, which includes accommodation agreements with government and industry. Once business opportunities are identified and negotiated, they are passed onto SRLLP for development.
“Our corporate structure provides the ability to respond quickly to opportunities, rather than just take advantage of opportunities by setting up a Joint Venture with non-Indigenous partners. SRLLP made the decision to engage Joint Ventures where appropriate, but to focus on building capacity in our own band membership via training. Building the capacity of our membership is another key to our success,” said Paul Donald, Director of Strategic Business Development at Simpcw Resources LLP.
SRLLP began its business by managing the forestry operations for Simpcw First Nation. SRLLP provided site clearing and environmental monitoring for several proponents (run-of-the-river hydro, mining, etc.). SRLLP utilized that experience and expanded further becoming a pipeline contractor in charge of security, medics, environmental, and archaeological assessments for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP). SRLLP since has grown into a multi-faceted company creating economic growth within the Simpcw Territory.
Indigenous Initial Attack Initiative
Simpcw First Nation felt the impact of the 2021 wildfires and reacted by creating the Indigenous Initial Attack (IIA) initiative. This initiative fills a gap due to the lack of resources and personnel ready to respond to new wildfires within the Simpcw Territory. BC Wildfire Service signed a seasonal pilot project agreement with Simpcw First Nation’s Chu Chua Volunteer Fire Department (CCVFD), which allows the IIA crew to be dispatched directly from the Fire Center and respond quickly to any new fire within the Simpcw territory. The service area is a 100-to-150-kilometer radius within the home base of Chu Chua, keeping the crew always close to the community to protect the local resources.
Fire Chief Ron Lampreau Jr., alongside Deputy Fire Chief Melanie Stutt, started assembling the IIA specialized fire fighting crew. The crew is made up of a crew boss and three crew members, all of whom are Simpcw Band members. from the Chu Chua Volunteer Fire Department. The crew boss has an extensive background in the forestry sector, making them an invaluable asset with their knowledge of the woodland traditional sector. All members possess local knowledge of the land, water sources, cultural deposits, medicine, contractors, and service roads, which serve to enhance their ability to access and fight fires.
“The fire crew ensures local boots are on the ground as a fire is reported and works quickly to set up and remove fuel from the fire’s path and/or to extinguish it” said Ron Lampreau Jr., CCVFD Fire Chief.
Stewardship of the Land
Stewardship of the land is one of the key priorities at SRLLP in fact, it is part of its mission statement. SRLLP has a dedicated Forestry Division that manages all aspects from planning to silviculture and everything in between. The Forestry Division is made up of professionals and technical staff to oversee active projects, business development opportunities, and sub-contractors. This department is dedicated and committed to working for the benefit of the Simpcw First Nation. During the difficult 2021 wildfire season, the workforce at the Forestry office within the Forestry Division didn’t hesitate to assist with extinguishing wildfires destroying the valuable resources in the Territory.
SRLLP’s partnerships are built around four main principles—employment and training opportunities, cultural awareness, revenue sharing, and community investment. SRLLP goals through these partnerships is to capture as many opportunities as possible within Simpcw traditional territory and use these opportunities to grow the capacity and experience of Simpcw Members and Simpcw Member-owned businesses.
“Our focus is on the legacy these projects and relationships leave left behind for SRLLP and Simpcw First Nation. There is a positive financial impact, but the less tangible benefits like skills development and experience are equally important. Our Joint Venture Agreement sets a standard for our partners around employment and training that provides opportunities for Simpcw Members to gain additional experience in their chosen fields, or to develop new transferrable skills through work experience and training,” said Donald.
Simpcw Member-owned businesses are included in all procurement opportunities that arise, and through those opportunities they build relationships with new clients that will benefit their businesses in the future. Securing this work grows their experience on large-scale projects and creates employment opportunities for other community members as the demand for services and supplies from these Simpcw Businesses increases.
SRLLP works closely with Simpcw First Nation to implement an innovative Cultural Awareness training program with all our partners. This program helps build a greater understanding and respect for Simpcw culture among the business affiliates, partners, management teams, and field staff. The Group’s goal through the implementation of this training is to create a more inclusive and respectful work environment for Indigenous employees working on projects within the territory.
As part of the legacy of SRLLP’s Joint Venture Partnerships, its partners contribute to a scholarship fund administered by SRLLP.
“This fund creates scholarships for Simpcw First Nation members completing post-secondary education, and trades programs. These scholarships support the long-term goals of Simpcw First Nation members, and those members often use their education and training to build even greater opportunities for the community,” said Jason Dorey, Chief Operating Officer at Simpcw Resources LLP.
“Our success lies largely with our staff and their dedication to our guiding values and principles,” says Al Chorney, Chief Executive Officer at Simpcw Resources LLP.
“We hire based not only on skills, but also on how we feel an individual will fit within the multi-leveled diversified organization. We work in a dynamic, fast-paced environment and success means that we need a team who can collaborate on creative solutions. We’ve managed to build a team of people whose jobs and personalities are very diverse but, at the end of the day, we’re all aligned in our commitment to building a company that supports the goals of Simpcw First Nation.”