In late 2012 the community of Attawapiskat became a household name in large part due to a housing related crisis and again more recently on news that the former band co-manager has been charged with fraud. Frequently when there is a crisis situation or other unfortunate event or tragedy occurring within a first nation’s community, it becomes a large media event with multiple news stories. Unfortunately the majority of first nations' success stories are often less known and I believe most would agree that is unfortunate.
In the Okanagan, many citizens are familiar with the success of both the Osoyoos and Westbank first nations. I have written previously that some have raised that the Penticton Indian band to date has not yet achieved similar progress. Fortunately this is changing- and at a rapid pace.
Over the past five years the Penticton Indian Band has established a day care program, changed the direction of its economic development, built a beautiful new school with increasing enrollment and attendance levels. It has also begun construction on a new residential community on band owned lands. Furthermore it is very close to begin construction on a new commercial development project.
Unfortunately all of these events combined have generated less provincial media attention than the Boonstock concert that will be held on locatee lands this upcoming long weekend. I make a point of mentioning that Boonstock is occurring on locatee lands as many mistakenly believe that a band chief & council directly control events that can occur on locatee lands. For further information on this topic please reference my March 25th, 2014 MP report: http://www.danalbas.com/mp-reports/mp-report-for-okanagan-coquihalla-building-abridge-between-communities
From my perspective it is important to recognize the progress of our first nations communities locally who have all taken different paths to increase economic initiatives but also being mindful of incorporating traditional first nations' culture.
It is for these reasons I invited Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt to Okanagan-Coquihalla to meet with some local area chiefs and see firsthand the recent progress of the Penticton Indian Band and also of the considerable success of Osoyoos Indian Band. It was an honour to have the Minister accept the invitation and it was a productive visit. It provided some very beneficial learning opportunities, such as a youth roundtable where the Minister heard directly from young participants of a federal skills training pilot project, which was greatly appreciated. Also while Minister Valcourt was here he announced a federal contribution of support towards a proposed bridge crossing near Green Avenue. Some might remember the channelization process that occurred in the late 1950's. While it was seen at the time as a necessary improvement to help mitigate flood risk on both sides of the channel, this new bridge will offer new opportunities by providing better access to the lands that were severed.
As August will soon arrive, I am reminded that there is one month remaining for my summer listening tour. If you or your business or group would like to schedule a meeting please do not hesitate to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.