Home PAPTAC 2018 PWC/BIOFOR Coverage First Nations can play an important part in bioeconomy development

First Nations can play an important part in bioeconomy development

Paper Advance got the opportunity to have a closer discussion with Constant Awashish, Grand Chief Atikamekw Nations on how he sees the opportunities for First Nations in the growing bioeconomy.

Constant Awashish has great hopes in the bioeconomy and there are a lot of opportunities right now, starting with the fact that young people are needed in the Canadian labour market and even more so in Québec. The average age of the population in Québec is increasing and gradually more and more people are retiring now and in the years to come. The developing bioeconomy will need people and First Nations are experiencing a baby boom, which will be an important workforce contribution.

He stressed that clean air and clean waters have always been important for First Nations' way of living and in this picture the bioeconomy fits in very nicely. As First Nations they want to be at the starting point and as the bioeconomy workforce will grow it will be an opportunity to put themselves in a good position. That is what he sees and also when talking about certification of products that is very much in line with how First Nations regard nature, as a sustainable must. This is the way they have always been living.

According to Constant Awashish there are challenges for First Nations in order to be able to participate and contribute to the bioeconomy. One is to educate the future workforce in technology, chemistry and nanotechnology. It is important that the young people get a sense of belonging and being a part of the solution. From there they can be proud and go ahead in life and be stronger and educate themselves.

To be able to take advantage of the new development and participate in it, First Nations need the good faith and collaboration with the government but also from the industry. La Tuque is a project which has brought hope and expectations to First Nations. From his point of view as leader, he believes in it strongly and appreciates the good cooperation between the different project partners. The partners believe in the project and so does he. To bring the project to a successful end there are still certain things to be sorted out, but so far so good.

Constant Awashish says that the bioeconomy can be in a big as well as in a small scale and therefore create jobs also for small communities. His final words were; "We are at a crossroads, where a number of things are still to be done but there is a lot of hope for rural communities and societies in what the bioeconomy will be able to do."


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