First Nations, provincial leaders meet to explore circular economy

·3 min read

Leaders of the Collaborative Leadership Initiative (CLI) continue to pursue matters of protecting water, reducing waste and creating good jobs in an online conference, 'Building Strong Communities: A Circular Approach.'

CLI joins 12 Chiefs, 18 mayors and reeves from Southern Manitoba to work on issues surrounding water protection, waste management, economic development and the exploration of a circular economy in Manitoba.

These leaders believe that all governments, municipalities, businesses and non-profits must work collaboratively to create a circular economy to improve the planet’s health.

“First Nations are a significant part of growing the economy and building strategies like the circular economy,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels from the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) during the webinar on Thursday.

“Many of our leaders and communities already embrace a more holistic approach, an approach which has primary value to the economic development as we provide the means to reinvest in the cultural life and essential services of the community for the benefit of all.”

Daniels believes that a circular economy reflects the First Nations' holistic approach to economic development.

He also trusts that a circular economy could lay the groundwork for reconciliation by building natural and sustainable infrastructure, looking for nature-based solutions, caring for the land, water and air as well as ensuring that the economy benefits everybody.

“We have to turn 150 years of negativity into generations of positivity. Today can be another step towards building a brighter future our ancestors dreamed of; one with hope and opportunity for all,” said Daniels.

During the discussion, leaders shared ways to transition Manitoba towards an economic model that emphasizes the well-being of people and ensures that resources are utilized in a manner that focuses on limited waste and assuring sustainability.

A circular economy strategy could include addressing food security, community building as well as energy, waste and resource management.

All leaders agree that a circular economy can only be done when all bodies in society work collectively to achieve this goal.

“While there are initiatives that can be implemented individually, I am convinced that the most impactful will be those developed and implemented together as a region or even more broadly,” said Manitoba’s Minister of Municipal Relations, Derek Johnson.

“We need to have cross-sector collaboration. We need the governmental, corporate and philanthropic worlds to come together because each of us holds a piece of the puzzle when we all recognize that we have a role and responsibility in this,” said Diane Roussin, Project Director of the Winnipeg Boldness Project.

In 2017, elected leaders from the SCO, the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region (WMR) and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) met and talked about their shared issues and common goals.

From that conversation, the leaders realized that they have missed many opportunities by not working together and therefore decided to establish the CLI.

“We had amazing people coming across Manitoba to talk about what we can achieve if we work together. They spent an entire day on how the circular economy could work in Southern Manitoba and what it could look like,” said Merrell-Ann Phare, founding Executive Director of the CIER.

“On March 1, 2019, WMR and SCO signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing to work together for four years. This was the moment when they committed to building a relationship and bring change into the world.”

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun