The Penticton Indian Band’s Chief Jonathan Kruger has been selected to sit on a new provincial council aimed at helping a sometimes overlooked sector of B.C.’s economy create jobs.
The new Aboriginal Business and Investment Council is a response to increased investment opportunities in the province, with the goal of helping move projects forward and finding avenues for First Nations and other governments to work together on economic development projects.
“I am honoured to be on the committee. It definitely makes me feel the province is paying attention to our economic development,” said Kruger. “I think it is a good thing that they are looking at other options to create jobs. For the Penticton Indian Band, we are in a perfect position to create over a thousand jobs on our reserve.”
There are 13 members on the new council, including representatives from several B.C. First Nations, as well as economic development specialists. Ellis Ross, recently elected chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, chairs the council and, along with Kruger, the Thompson Okanagan is represented by Chief Shane Gottfriedson of the Tk’emlups Indian Band in the Kamloops area.
“When we talk about economic development and investment in the province, building relationships with aboriginal communities and understanding their perspectives are necessary first steps,” said Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
Kruger has high hopes for working with the council, not only for a greater ability to lobby for PIB economic development, like a bridge over the channel at Green Avenue, but also helping on a provincial level.
“It is going to benefit the whole region and the province,” he said. “I am hoping for good things for First Nations and municipalities and regions throughout the province.”
While the first meeting of the new committee took place today (May 11), Kruger wasn’t able to be in attendance. Instead, he was in Summerland attending a signing of a protective covenant with the province.
“We have a protective covenant to protect some traditional grounds for our root digging,” said Kruger. “It’s protected from any kind of development.”
The flats area covered by the covenant is adjacent to reserve lands, Kruger said, adding that they have hopes to eventually secure it as an addition to the PIB reserve.
“If I make it back after the signing ceremony, I am hoping to get on conference call with the AEDC,” said Kruger. “It’s going to be the first day and we will probably be talking about who we are and what we hope to accomplish, things like that.”