By Shari Narine
BEAVER FIRST NATION, Alta.
Beaver First Nation Chief Trevor Mercredi says he was surprised – and pleased – to find out his First Nation’s application for funding for a D6T Cat bulldozer had been approved by the province.
“In the past it was hard to get any kind of relationship done between the First Nations and the provincial government. But we could sense a new direction here, definitely trying to give a little back to the communities,” he said.
“I’m very appreciative of the grant and the involvement the province is having with the First Nations as of the last year,” he added.
Mercredi says getting the $675,000 funding for the bulldozer was at least a year-long process, but Indigenous Relations department staff worked efficiently to make it happen.
“They accepted our proposal, which is huge for Beaver,” he said.
That single piece of equipment not only means economic diversification for the First Nation, but safety for its residents as well.
Mercredi says the equipment will be used to build fireguards around the community. While there were no evacuation orders issued for Beaver Nation last year, unlike its Dene Tha First Nation and Tall Cree First Nation neighbours, Beaver was on high alert.
“We’ll try to clean up most of the area surrounding the community so if a fire does come from a certain area, it can be slowed down or stopped,” said Mercredi.
Fire season begins March 1.
The bulldozer will also allow Beaver First Nation’s company, which operates under the band’s name, to bid on forest fire mitigation projects outside of the community and do road work.
Mercredi anticipates the hiring of at least two more full-time operators, full-time employment for the existing mechanic and the training of an apprentice mechanic. That could bring full-time employment with the company up to 13.
“It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot for our community,” he said.
Finning Canada, which already partners with the band company, has pledged to provide on-going technical support and service.
Funding from the province for the bulldozer, says Mercredi, is one way for the Alberta government to give back to the community.
“It’s important to emphasize ‘they give back’ to the communities, not just give to the communities because a lot of First Nations up here, obviously, we don’t benefit from any of the industry unless we pursue it.
“I don’t really believe this is something that is just given to the band. I believe they’re giving back to the Nation to help us at least provide livelihoods for the livelihoods they’re taking away,” said Mercredi.