What happens if we talk about a healthy economy with everyone at the table?

For the past two years, supported by funding from the BC Rural Dividend fund that paid for economic development consultants and a local project manager, a group of people met to try and develop a regional approach to economic development. Mostly, they were wondering if it was possible to get on the same page, given the huge lift any initiatives in this region have gotten, when different groups or governments have been able to work together and advocate as a collective.

At the end of the project, a Strategy had been shepherded into being, thanks especially to the work of the local project manager, Veronica Woodruff, of Clear Course Consulting.

And that “same page” everyone was wondering about getting on looks a little tattered, having been around the block, through a pandemic, marked up, pondered… but the word pencilled at the top reads Nuk’w7ántal’, an Ucwalmícwts word meaning to “help each other find the way”.

This release shares a reflection on the process from the Pemberton and Area Economic Development Collaborative. You can download a copy of the Regional Economic Development Strategy here.

The media release is below.

36 action items to stimulate and support regional economy generated by regional table over two years of conversation

Regional transit, supporting local business and practicing two-eyed seeing among top priorities

Pemberton, BC/ Líl̓wat Territory – A lot has happened in the two years since the Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce learned that it had secured $100,000 from the BC Rural Dividend Program to develop a regional Economic Development Strategy and Plan – COVID-19 being the most disruptive.

“The timing was somewhat fortuitous,” says local consultant, Veronica Woodruff, of Clear Course Consulting, who served as the project manager and liaison between planning consultants EcoPlan and the participating community representatives at the Economic Development Collaborative table. “When the pandemic hit, we had spent quite some time gathering up all the relevant data and existing economic reports from various communities to form an Economic Snapshot, and developing an overarching vision that could align all the participating communities. We were about to start identifying shared priorities to move forward on.”

The Pemberton and Area Economic Development Collaborative is a collective featuring invited participation from the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Pemberton, the Village of Pemberton, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the Líl̓wat Business Group, the Líl̓wat Nation, N’Quatqua Nation, Xa’xtsa Nation (Douglas), Samahquam, Skatin Nation, and the Lower Stl’atl’imx Tribal Council. They have met quarterly since 2018 with a view to bringing together all the Nations and communities who cohabit the unceded territory of the Líl̓wat and Lower St’at’imc Nations, to share information, build relationships and collaboratively explore and facilitate economic development opportunities.

When the urgent priority for all of the participants at the table became mounting an emergency response for their specific communities, the consultants were able to incorporate the pandemic disruptions using a COVID-19 scenario-planning tool to reimagine what economic development would look like in this new landscape. This helped make the resulting Regional Economic Development Strategy, which was presented to the Economic Development Collaborative on March 11, 2021, more relevant and responsive to the present conditions we’re all navigating.

One of these custom pieces is in the Plan’s commitment to “developing pathways for economic reconciliation” through a practice of two-eyed seeing. Two-eyed seeing is defined as “learning to see from one eye the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing, and using both eyes together, for the benefit of all.”

Incorporating this commitment to reconciliation underscores that the Plan is not a finish line or a fait accompli, but a place to start from, a working document, rooted in a commitment to working towards right relationship throughout the region.

Lhpatq Maxine Bruce, a Councillor for the Líl̓wat Nation, and President of Líl̓wat Business Group, said:

“It was emotional for me to see the wording about reconciliation built into the Strategy. The idea of truly and genuinely working together is very new, even though we’ve been living as neighbours for many years. Consensus can be hard if you’re not connected. We need to help each other to become connected. A lot of learning still has to take place, to really acknowledge our differences and celebrate our commonalities, but we all put in an effort to be there. A lot of learning happened and this feels like a beginning. Unveiling concepts like economic reconciliation is very positive.”

Lhpatq Maxine Bruce

The goal of the Regional Economic Development Strategy originally had been to be led by the spirit Nuk’w7ántal’, an Ucwalmícwts word meaning to “help each other find the way”. While trying to bring together 12 different communities, each governed by completely different legislation and processes, and reflecting different demographics, economic circumstances, access, strengths and challenges, was not easy, especially through a pandemic, the willingness of the people at the table to keep talking through frustration or confusion, and to hold space to understand the barriers that exist and the shifts that need to happen, resulted in a Plan that the Economic Development Collaborative hopes will serve as a good starting place for the region.

Graham Turner, former President of the Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce, was involved in the project from the inception.

“Meeting together to share what was happening in our areas and what was impacting families and businesses really reinforced for me the need to get beyond silos, even though that can involve a lot more dialogue and complexity. There’s a lot of power in being able to identify common goals.”

Graham Turner, past President of the Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce

The Plan was drafted to be actionable – and was generated in large part from existing plans that had been prepared by or for the various communities in the region, bringing them together and looking at them as a group, to say, “Knowing that we want to lift everyone up, what are the top priorities we can work towards as a region?”

Working beyond traditional government boundaries with a focus on economic health helped raise awareness and understanding of where and why the needs of each of the communities may not be aligned.

By creating a shared vision for the Collaborative and committing to the process of regional economic development, the group has created a space where they can build trust, acknowledge the differences in the needs of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and work together towards actions that inspire change for the betterment all communities in the region.

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