Longlac, ON. -- Ginoogaming First Nation Chief Celia Echum is congratulating a band member who is working to change the narrative for First Nations in Northern Ontario.
For more than 15 years Jason Rasevych, a member of the Ginoogaming First Nation near Longlac, Ontario, has worked with various First Nations, and community economic development corporations.
“I’ve known Jason for decades, since he was a youth in our community. He’s always had a relentless spirit as a go-getter to do what it takes to make things happen for our peoples” stated Chief Echum.
“I am very proud that he was recognized, I believe we need to do more to acknowledge our front-line staff and bring our youth up by giving them a platform to showcase their talents and succeed”, Echum added.
During his professional career Rasevych, a 35-year-old who lives in Thunder Bay has spearheaded a number of special projects and programs for First Nations.
His efforts led him to being recognized as one of Canada’s top economic developers at the Cando 25th Anniversary Conference and AGM which concluded on Oct. 25 in Enoch, Alberta.
Cando, the national organization which promotes Indigenous economic development, also annually hands out awards to the community of the year and in the Aboriginal Private Sector Business category.
“I was humbled to be on a national stage to talk about my journey. It was an honour to present in the Enoch Cree area, Treaty No. 6, my speech was a true reflection and a magical moment. I talked about my ancestral inspirations, my Cree Grandmother being raised in the James Bay region and marrying a Ukrainian army veteran, my childhood memories of going to the Mohawk OKA crisis rallies and listening to Bill Traverse, Elijah Harper and Ovid Mecredi. My teenage years on the trapline with my father where I first learned about work ethic and taking a risk without a reward and the spiritual connection to the land” Rasevych said.
“All of those early experiences shaped my values, my worldview, my direction and has fueled my tenacity to fight for inherent rights as economic rights for First Nations, I’m blessed” he added.
Rasevych added he is thrilled that Cando takes the time to recognize economic development professionals.
“I don’t think EDOs in Ontario and across Canada get the recognition they deserve like they do from Cando,” he said.
While he believes EDOs handle the brunt of the behind-the-scenes work on various projects, Rasevych said it is often others, such as community leaders who enjoy the spotlight during photo opportunities when ventures come to fruition.
Rasevych also challenged Cando representatives to change the name of the award for future years as he believes the role of an EDO has greatly evolved.
“It’s more than job creation and more than identifying new revenue streams,” Rasevych said, adding he’d like to see the EDO accolade renamed the Chiefs Warriors award. That’s because he feels one truly must be a warrior to overcome political and bureaucratic barriers one faces while attempting to best represent the community one is working for.
“When you are given a mandate from leadership that is multi-year, multi-faceted, you need to perform at a high level as an EDO to be successful. You become the Chief’s warrior for the First Nation, you become entrenched in a battlefield of “David vs Goliath” like challenges, you take it on as part of your life. If you ever heard the 17th-century fable the cat’s paw, then you will understand First Nations EDOs are the Wolf’s Paw in this day and age,” Rasevych said.
One of the ventures Rasevych was instrumental in was a $69 million project, officially announced this past October, which will bring Internet access to five remote First Nation communities in northern Ontario.
“It’s going to be life transformational,” Rasevych said. Those communities will be connected online to the rest of the world and Rasevych believes one of the greatest components of this project will be the telehealth and telemedicine services which will become available to those on the various First Nations. “It will help them stay at home and save costs instead of having them fly out to urban communities,” he said.
Another project Rasevych spearheaded and is rather proud of is the historic agreement reached earlier this year between three First Nations of Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The deal gives the First Nations forest management and harvesting rights to the Ogoki Forest. Rasevych led the First Nations owned forestry corporation to the NADF Business Award for Partnership of the Year in Timmins just a few weeks ago.
“We took the approach that if the government doesn’t move to adopt the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples, then we will make that a requirement ourselves. We are changing the narrative, doing something that hasn’t been done before by having the companies respect the free prior informed consent framework”, Rasevych said.
In 2015, Rasevych was invited to attend a United Nations’ Mayan International trade mission to Guatemala to provide strategies for indigenous tribes in Central and Latin America with a goal of enhancing their use of the FPIC framework.
He led in the development of shareholder advocacy leadership training to help indigenous tribes engage with publicly traded companies.
Rasevych’s other accomplishments include leading a 20-year Indigenous tourism plan, which could potentially bring 20,000 visitors per year to First Nations in northern Ontario and developing renewable energy concepts and strategies to eliminate diesel generators in remote First Nations, potentially to be used by not only First Nation communities in his province but across the country as well.
In the next five years, he would like to see more First Nations business grow market share in the procurement and supply chain in northern Ontario.
“The playing field needs to be leveled, there needs to be more support, we need to stop lateral violence, we need to lobby the economic buyers. We have big plans for 2019 and beyond, this is the beginning of a new chapter,” Rasevych said.