Membertou, NS. Sept.17, 2015…. Representatives of a First Nation community in the interior of British Columbia are in Unama’ki (Cape Breton) this week to learn more about how the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office operates and how they engage industry.

“I first learned about Unama’ki Model at a conference I attended,” said Chief Byron Louis of the Okanagan Indian Band, “I was and am still very interested in a model that promotes Aboriginal success and is driven by Aboriginal people.”

Three staff from the Okanagan Indian Band arrived in Cape Breton on Wednesday. They will spend several days observing and reporting on the success of the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office and its “Unama’ki Model” for economic development.

According to a recent case study published by the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies at CBU, this Unama’ki model is based upon a unique economic partnership between the five Unama’ki communities.

“This is our strength,” said Alex Paul, Executive Director of MEBO. “It is this unique collaboration between our communities. It is how we engage with industry and how we take a business approach to all we do and in the end, it is about the results we deliver- Jobs!”

The Staff members from the Okanagan Indian Band work in economic development, employment, training and social development. “We will spend the rest of this week studying the best practices of the Unama’ki model with an eye to recreating the successes in the Okanagan Valley,” said Darcy Aubin, Director of Lands and Economic Development, for the Okanagan Indian Band. Aubin is one of the BC visitors.

Our visitors spent Thursday in Membertou, and we briefed them on our operations,” said Alex Paul, Executive Director with the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office. “We had a great discussion about Aboriginal engagement in cleanup of contaminated sites. Our office has the experience of the Tar Ponds Cleanup project. The Okanagan Band is looking at a major contaminated site cleanup project on its own land, contamination caused by DND,” said Paul. “We then visited the office of the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies at CBU. On Friday we will visit the community of Eskasoni. We will then move on to Wagmatcook First Nation to meet with officials, visit their training school and learn more about how the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office works with the different Unama’ki communities.”

“We want to learn more about this approach,” said Chief Louis. “Meeting labour needs with job specific training is important. Aboriginal people are amongst the youngest in the labour force and moving forward, our community wants to be in a position where will have a skilled labour pool to meet the needs of employers. This is our time to shine,” said the Chief of the Okanagan Indian Band.

Alex Paul said he sees this as an opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other. “Collaboration is a critical part of our Unama’ki Model.”