Takla Nation Next Generation Project
Takla Nation received funding from the BC Rural Dividends Initiative in fall 2017 to do two projects:
- Work with the Sasuchan Development Corporation on its governance structures and policies
- Explore the potential of a Takla Trust, as the Nation is anticipating increased own-source revenues in the future
Three Takla members were hired part-time to work on the combined Next Generations Project. Tana Abraham, Caitlin Abraham and Niky Tevely joined Anita Williams and Cathe Wishart as project coordinators.
IMPORTANT: There have been many rumors that a trust already exists for Takla, that Council has already set up a trust, that there is already money coming into the Nation for a trust, that there is money to be handed out to Members. None of that is true. If you have questions please contact Tana, Anita, Caitlin or Cathe.
The Trust project began with:
- Research into what a First Nations trust is, and what it isn’t
- Research into best practices from across Canada, and various examples of First Nations trusts
- Finding resources that can help us understand trusts and made good decisions when resources do become available for investing in a trust
- Setting up community information sessions
Many First Nations begin their trust development work by bringing in one of the big accounting firms, who make a business of setting up and running these trusts. Takla chose to take a more community-based approach to start, doing our own exploration and bringing in our own resources in the initial stages.
One of the things we’re committed to doing is identifying traditional ways of knowing or conducting business that might help influence how Takla runs a trust.
- Louis Tapper, an accountant and expert on First Nations trusts with 35 years’ experience in Saskatchewan, volunteers to provide basic information on trusts to First Nations in western Canada, as a way of giving back to the Nations who have trusted him over the years.
- Louis’ son David Tapper is a financial investment advisor also works with First Nations Trusts.
- Brian Payer, Ojibway and an experienced economic development advisor to First Nations across BC and Canada.
Louis, David and Brian all attended the May 4, 2018 Chief and Council meeting to present information on First Nations trusts, taxation issues, and investment for the long-term. All three participated in the May 5 community information session in Prince George, with Louis’ presentation being the focal point.
On May 28, Brian joined the Next Generations Team in Takla for a community dinner. The presentation was the same as in PG: a basic introduction to First Nations trusts and gathering ideas and questions from Members that we can work on.
Over the summer we will take all the information we’ve been given, including feedback and questions from Members. We will do more research and bring information and ideas back to Chief and Council and the Members.
Q&A about trusts
We will keep this section updated as we are asked questions and as we find answers. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Doesn’t Takla already have a Trust? No, the Band never established an actual trust. People are talking about AuRico funds, which several years ago were going to go into a trust. The trust was never set up, some funds were spent to get out of Management Action Plan and manage the deficit. The rest of the money, approximately $350,000 is being held in a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) by Woodward and Company LLP the law firm that was the first in Canada to successfully prove Aboriginal title. Rick Turgeon, Takla’s Director of Finance, has confirmed that the trust was never completed and that the annual audit procedure is to have the law firm confirm the amount of the GIC. Turgeon last confirmed the existence of the GIC on Friday, September 22, 2017 and the upcoming audit will confirm the amount and existence of the remaining AuRico funds. These are funds that could be moved to a trust if Takla establishes one.
2. Why are we trying to do this now? Takla is in the middle of major negotiations with the provincial and federal governments, and with industry. We don’t know how it will all end up, but Chief and Council want the Nation to be prepared, if we do end up with a substantial amount of funding available over time.
Takla Nation’s Values and Principles
A big part of our initial work in looking at trust models is aligning with Takla values and principles. We had intended to work with Members to identify these, then discovered that work done by the Health Department in June 2017, through sessions in Takla and Prince George, already did this. That information is below:
- Respect for yourself, each other, your community, lands and resources.
- Importance of culture, language and spirituality.
- Importance of traditional governance and laws.
- Importance of traditional practices and holistic connection to the land.
- Protection and Utilization of our lands.
- Traditional ethos of hard work and personal responsibility passed on from our ancestors.
- Unity: Sharing, working together and supporting each other.
- Community safety.
Pride: Everyone will take pride in and practice their culture and traditional values.
- Takla Nation will self determine their own nation building agenda.
- Takla Nation will take concrete actions to advance their nation building agendas for current and future generations.
- Traditional laws, language, cultural practices and environmental stewardship will guide Takla nations building.
- Takla Nation will develop diversity of economic interests and international levels.
- Takla Nation will know and carry out their personal responsibilities for the safety, healthy development and well being of their child, youth and community.
- Takla Nations children and youth must be safe from all forms of abuse.
- Takla Nation must have clear, consistent and accountable rules applicable equally to everyone.
- Takla Nation must always consider the potential effects of today’s decisions for future generations.
Examples of trusts and best practices information:
Best Practices Summary compiled by Tana Abraham and Niky Tevely
- Start Trust development early: As early as one year prior to conclusion of the settlement
- Customizing to ensure Trust Indenture fits the community, which takes time.
- Consider the appropriate Trust model given the specific circumstances and needs of the First Nation
- For a community Trust, determine the extent of power and protection needed outside the Nation Trustee Powers (i.e. Protecting without paternalism).
- Start with the Trust framework: Not the Trust agreement
- Use a lawyer to draft the Trust indenture WHO IS EXPERIENCED with the Trusts and their related laws.
- Ensure there are proper Trust amendment clauses.
- Ensure Trust agreement is very clear from an operations standpoint to avoid confusion and conflict later on.
- Remember to allow enough flexibility in the Trust indenture to accommodate evolution of First Nation governance over time.
- Utilize a comprehensive plan which is a term defined within the Trust but is modified outside of the Trust indenture for all Trust policies and procedures that you expect will change over time. It can be updated every 5 years and approved by the Trustees, Chief and Council, members or any combination depending on which process works best for your circumstances.
Making a Community Trust Work
- Have Trustees that represent the Nation and Community members/beneficiaries.
- General election
- By family groupings and clans
- By geography
- Involve Chief and Council at Trust meetings, without capacity to vote on Trustee matters.
- Trustees develop clear code of conduct and conflict of interest guidelines.
- Specific economic development and investment decisions are not made by Trustees.
- Have an investment consultant facilitate a competitive process for selection of investment managers including annual monitoring.
- Ensure processes in place to consult and report to membership.
- Ensure ongoing Trustee training/certification as required.
- Hold regular (in-person) meetings as required based on amount of work that is required to be completed.
- Have an Administrative Trustee who must be present for quorum to ensure Trust indenture is followed
- Protects Nation Trustees and Beneficiaries.
- Bring in traditional forms of Governance of the Nation where possible.
- Consider how to measure results of the Trust and its spending over time.
- Standardized evaluation practices and measures.