The most prominent First Nations community in Manitoba, Peguis First Nation, has a sound economic development strategy and is actively engaged in numerous projects that promise to bolster the community’s economic growth. Leadership is a key factor in moving forward and building relationships with stakeholders, businesses and intergovernmental agencies to undertake special projects, and that’s where the Peguis Consultation and Special Projects Inc. (PCSP) department plays a critical role. 

In addition to protecting heritage resources and undertaking important archeological projects in Manitoba, PCSP has been making considerable strides in amending the Heritage Act in the future—a story SAY Magazine will continue to follow as it unfolds. PCSP has a successful land-based program and is involved in many climate change conversations and projects involving clean energy.  

Kinnan Stevenson-French, environmental projects coordinator, is taking the lead on clean energy initiatives for PCSP. He is particularly excited about the newest undertaking involving electric vehicles, funded by Natural Resources Canada. “We have been engaging our community and helping everyone understand where Canada, North America, and the world are going with electric vehicles,” says Stevenson-French. “We plan to start with a few electric vehicles and down the line, electric buses.”  This would no doubt reduce emissions and overall costs for Peguis First Nation and put them on the map as a leader in energy-efficient enterprises.  

PCSP Director Mike Sutherland is optimistic about what it means for First Nations communities but is worried some will get left behind if they get on board with the idea now. “Winnipeg and many surrounding cities have natural gas, but if First Nations don’t get on board, a lot of these little towns and hamlets are going to be left out,” he says. “We want to keep up with the rest of the world and make sure that the electric vehicle concept is growing within our communities and that our people can purchase and charge them.” PCSP has already invested time and money into community members who are knowledgeable in this area by sending them for extensive training on the maintenance and efficiency of electric vehicles. 

Plans are underway to develop a solar farm in Peguis to offset the use of hydroelectricity in several larger venues in the area, and the community is also looking at developing and creating a manufacturing plant for hydrogen capsules. “In order to create hydrogen cells for vehicles, you need a lot of hydro and water. And Manitoba has both,” says Sutherland.

Sutherland further explains the need to lead First Nations communities in the business of clean energy. “We have an important role here. It’s about increasing awareness and engagement because there’s so much economic opportunity.”

PCSP also significantly focuses on its traditional environmental monitoring program. “Anything that impacts the use of the land and by our people means we have to be engaged,” says Sutherland. A team from PCSP did a heritage site assessment last year and is consulting on a six-year project for a two-billion-dollar Winnipeg Water and Waste Treatment Plant. 

In the foreseeable future, PCSP hopes to secure federal funding to support other First Nation communities in building capacity to develop offices like theirs that deal with Section 35 consultation and engagement, environmental impact statements, and environmental assessments. Additionally, PCSP offers terrestrial and aquatic monitor training and is engaging a post-secondary institution to certify the training modules. 

“We are involved in many different things, including major hydro projects, so we’re starting to understand all of these industries better and how they impact our economy and the environment,” says Sutherland. “Our role includes educating others about our traditional knowledge, values of the land, and how much we value water. It’s not just beneficial for us, but it’s beneficial for industry, government, and the general public to understand a First Nation perspective when it comes to the land and why it’s so important for us to be sustainable. We don’t want to stop progress, but we’ve got to make sure that the footprint left behind us is minimal, and that our communities are also flourishing.”

With all of the initiatives being taken on, PCSP will be looking to hire additional staff and monitors, especially during the busy summer months. For anyone interested in learning more about PSCP and future career opportunities, visit peguisconsultation.ca

The Peguis Consultation and Special Projects Inc. (PCSP) is a unique department of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba that focuses on Section 35 consultations and special projects. This department was created in 2012-2013 to ensure adequate engagement processes were established, including environmental hearings at the provincial and federal levels.

The office now has over 20 staff members and nine departments: Section 35 Consultation, Engagement and Accommodations, Environmental Department, Traditional Environmental Monitoring, Land-Based Education, Forestry, Archeological and Heritage Resources Department, Mapping and Geographic Information System (GIS), Community Comprehensive Planning (CCP) and Community Development.