Wabun Tribal Council executive director Jason Batise recalls a conversation with a provincial negotiator on a resource revenue sharing model that the former Wynne government planned to carry into the 2018 provincial election.
During a break, the senior bureaucrat took him aside and confided that these talks represented a "crowning achievement" in his professional career.
"I've been in the public service for 25 years and this is the best thing I've ever done," recalled Batise.
When it goes into effect this fall, the series of agreements between the province and 32 First Nations, including six from Wabun, enables them to receive 40 per cent of the annual mining tax and royalties from existing mines in areas covered by the agreements, 45 per cent from future mines, and 45 per cent of forestry stumpage.
But the deals also represented a signature moment for the chiefs and staff of Wabun who, since the mid-2000s, have accumulated an extensive base of knowledge and understanding of what benefits the mining industry can bring to break the cycle of poverty and dependence in their communities.
The member communities of the Timmins-based Wabun Tribal Council have traditional land that takes in a wide swath of northeastern Ontario, including the prolific gold and base metal mining and exploration camps in Timmins and Kirkland Lake.
When they made their pitch to the province to talk about resource revenue sharing, Batise stressed to Queen's Park that they had a willing partner in the progress-minded Wabun communities.
"We've done this before, we have a way to negotiate and understand fair deals, we know what the resource development industry is and isn't, so come talk to us if you want to set an example for the rest of the province."
Batise handles the negotiations for mining and hydroelectric agreements on behalf of the six Anishnabek communities that make up the tribal council: Beaverhouse, Brunswick House, Chapleau Ojibwe, Flying Post, Matachewan, and Mattagami.
Wabun currently boasts 10 impact benefit agreements reached with operating mines and 90 agreements of varying stages at the exploration stage with dozens of limited partnership companies at the service and supply level.
And there are plenty more in the pipeline.
The Wabun model has largely been regarded as a best practice to make meaningful engagement toward striking positive First Nation-industry partnerships.
Their impressive track record of results-driven dialogue and agreements was enough...