Economic Development goals and strategies are contained in the Stellat’en First Nation Economic Development Plan.
The central goal of the SFN Economic Development Plan is to enhance the quality of life of Stellat’en members. While there are many subjective definitions of the term “quality of life,” this plan takes the term to mean that members are situated to obtain what they desire and select the best quality of life for themselves, thereby maximizing social and cultural benefits for the community. When community members are able to create the lives they desire, based on deeply held cultural values, they help to enhance the quality of life of their family and their neighbours. In practice, this goal prioritizes the availability of desirable employment for every member.
The second goal of the plan is to develop businesses that are sustainable both financially and environmentally. The closure of the Endako Mine in 2014 demonstrated the often-precarious nature of resource dependence. Developing businesses that are financially resilient requires diversification into sectors of the local economy that do not depend on one or two large employers. British Columbia’s robust international tourism sector offers a number of opportunities to connect the community to local, regional, national, and international markets.
The Economic Development Plan also aims to leverage inherent Aboriginal rights in Canada to the benefit of SFN members. Whether dealing with proponents of natural resource projects or with the provincial or federal governments, Canadian law has been increasingly vocal about the vital importance of free, prior, and informed consent for Indigenous peoples. These principles are embodied in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the government of both British Columbia and Canada. In British Columbia where the land base is largely unceded by Indigenous groups, extractive industries have inequitably contributed to the development of the settler economy while depriving First Nations of access to wealth and resources. Government to government negotiations between Carrier Sekani First Nations leaders and their provincial and federal counterparts seek to raise the standard of living of Indigenous peoples in British Columbia to match that of their settler neighbours. Strategies aimed at raising the standard of living of Indigenous peoples include sharing the historic revenue from natural resource extraction with First Nations, increasing the number of direct-award contracts to First Nations-owned businesses, and prioritizing employment for First Nations members in industrial projects in First Nations traditional territories.
Finally, the Economic Development Plan prioritizes the development of the entrepreneurial capacity of Stellat’en members. SFN currently receives funding from Indigenous Services Canada to support investment in member-owned business start-ups. In past years, grants to members have been used to support the development of member-owned businesses. These have included funding to help make and sell hand crafts, beadwork, as well as funds supporting small franchise businesses, and a consultancy.
In the coming years, SFN will continue to provide strategic funding to members wishing to pursue small business enterprises. At the same time the Band will work with partner organizations to leverage this strategic financial support with entrepreneurial capacity building and skills development. Organizations that are well suited and oriented toward developing entrepreneurial capacity include:
- The Department of Indigenous Services Canada
- The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development
- Community Futures Stuart Nechako
- Community Futures Nadina
- The College of New Caledonia
The Economic Development Officer has developed a program to administer capacity funding to members. The program takes as its criteria the ability of the applicant to create value and employment in the community, the ability of the applicant to demonstrate a commitment to developing their entrepreneurial skills in a formal setting, and the ability of the applicant to integrate traditional or locally significant content into their business model.
 Ed Diender & Eunkook Suh, “Measuring Quality of Life: Economic, Social, and Subjective Indicators,” Social Indicators Research 40 (1997): 189-216.