Ottawa trade show shines a light on northern development

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BobMesher NLTS Ottawa_0150The windowed halls of the Ottawa Convention Centre allowed a rare dose of winter sunlight to warm the 4th edition of the Northern Lights convention January 29 to February 1. At the entrance stood the arts demonstration area where sculptors, musicians, painters, craftspeople and fashion designers displayed their talents. Even before the official start of the tradeshow, delegates were walking about networking and browsing the various booths that had set up early.

The buzz of the crowd was palpable as people admired the seal-fur fashion line by Victoria Kakuktinniq from Rankin Inlet in Nunavut or tested out field equipment training simulators from the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario. The size of the event reflects the growing scope of Arctic commerce.

Over 1,200 delegates gathered to network and expand their business reach. International investors from Russia and even Greenland could be found in the crowds. Over 200 exhibitors representing government agencies, mining companies, artists and entrepreneurs came to the event to showcase the opportunities to do business in the Northern regions of Canada. Representing the Cree and Jamesien businesses was the delegation organized by the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue (SAENCAT).

Ottawa1Several booths represented companies and organizations from the region, such as Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, SMS Equipment, and the Cree Outfitter and Tourism Association. Bertie Wapachee, manager of the Chisasibi Business Service Centre, has been attending the biannual event since 2010.

“The main reason I come here is I like to see what others are doing,” Wapachee said. “If they’re advancing in certain areas, I would like to know about it and learn it – be it in mining, economic development or any kind of business. This is also a great opportunity to see what our northern brothers are doing.”

The growing business interest in northern Canada has driven innovation in the telecommunications, water storage and greenhouse technology on display at the booths. “It’s amazing what they have been able to do up north. There is a lot to learn,” said Wapachee.

Many company representatives enthused over the rapid growth of Arctic development over the last decade. Megaprojects in the region were well represented, highlighted by the $7.7 billion Muskrat Falls Project in Labrador that attracted potential employees. The billion-dollar mining projects being developed in Nunavut also demonstrated the massive investments now flowing into Arctic regions.

Ottawa3Organized by the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, Northern Lights 2014 attracted government officials and speakers who shared their insight on Northern development. They included Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, federal Environment Leona Aglukkaq and Greenland’s Minister of Finance and Domestic Affairs, Vittus Qujaukitsok. The event included workshops dealing with various aspects of Arctic economy and a trade show that offered networking opportunities and showcasing innovation.

A major development included the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Makivik Corporation and the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance (SCNATEA). Attending the ceremony were NDP MP Romeo Saganash, Makivik president Jobie Tukkiapik, SCNATEA president Ted Moses and Val d’Or Mayor Pierre Corbeil.

“We are here because of a vision and a dream,” said Moses in his opening remarks. “That dream was the dream of the Inuit and the Cree which found expression first in the James Bay and Quebec Agreement, a dream of being able to lay a secure and lasting economic foundation for the possibility of creating strategic and mutually beneficial partnership with other peoples in the region.”

Building on a long-standing relationship between the two organizations, the MOU ensures further collaboration and support for future and ongoing projects as well as encouraging joint ventures by companies from both regions. “I am hopeful that this alliance will serve to lay a path for progress in ways that we will see benefits for Inuit of Nunavik,” said Tukkiapik.

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