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Past, Present and Future

Fort McMurray 468 First Nation’s Partnerships and Member Services Make a Difference

Left to Right: Jon Ross, Ryan Coish, Fred Cree (Bottom), Chad Shkopich.

Fort McMurray 468 First Nation (FMFN468), a dynamic community steeped in history and culture, is preserving its past while fostering economic sustainability and self-sufficiency for a vibrant, healthy future for its members. From governance reforms to community wellness, from education and trades to public works and housing, FMFN468 has been making strides in every aspect of community life. Through joint corporate partnerships, FMFN468 is empowering a more collaborative, sustainable future – not just for its members, but also the community at large.

Chad Shkopich has been FMFN468’s Business Development Manager for the past three years. He was predominantly drawn to the position because of the opportunities it presented to forge beneficial business partnerships for the Nation and for the group of companies.

“We are wholly owned by the 468 First Nation,” says Shkopich. “All the revenue our group generates through partnerships and investments are given back to the Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and their members.”

Currently, there are 29 business partnerships within the group.

“There are many wonderful benefits in being affiliated,” says Shkopich. “Partners get the benefits of becoming an employee of the group. If you are a Nation member, you get to work for and give back to your community, your family and your friends.”

FMFN is very proud of its member services, including a joint venture in which all corporate partners participate.
“It’s a scholarship fund,” explains Shkopich. “The funds go back to the Nation and our members can access the money for post secondary education, to obtain their GED, to go to trade school, or any type of support for professional development. Basically, thanks to revenue generated by the scholarship, we can internally support our Nation instead of individuals having to rely on government or outside support. This scholarship is all thanks to our joint agreements.”

The scholarship is part of a much broader range of member services. FMFN468 offers a diverse array of services that significantly and positively impact the self sufficiency of the Nation. These services include:

Membership Assistance: This department is staffed by a Membership Clerk, who is also referred to as the Indian Registration Administrator (IRA) by the Government of Canada. This person maintains the list of members and assists applicants with their needs. Some of the services provided by the department include completing and remitting Indian registration applications; completing and remitting Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) cards; and applying for life events changes, such as marriage, change of name, change of address and death with Indigenous Services Canada.

Social Development: Offers two primary programs: income assistance and assisted living. The income assistance program aims to improve the quality of life for low-income, on-reserve residents by alleviating poverty and hardship. It provides financial assistance to support their basic and special needs according to the rate schedule and eligibility criteria of the reference province/territory.

The Assisted Living Program is an income dependent, residency based program. It provides funding to assist in non-medical social support services to seniors, adults with chronic illness and children and adults with disabilities (mental and physical) to help them maintain functional independence and greater self-reliance.
Community Wellness: Designed to contribute to the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness of the Nation. The services offered include support with mental health, addictions, interim counselling, crisis counselling, child welfare assistance, legal assistance, budgeting, funeral support, NA and/or AA meeting support, access to traditional medicines and ceremonies and more. The Community Wellness Centre is also developing a community framework to enhance their services. As part of this, they have a survey for members to share their experiences and needs, particularly in relation to children’s services agencies.

Education and Trades: FMFN468 prioritizes education for its members, viewing it as a key factor in shaping future leaders. The Education Department supports members by assisting them in navigating application funding and research of suitable programs delivered through various colleges and universities.

Employment and Training: This program is designed to enhance career research skills, provide job search assistance and support employment maintenance.

Public Works and Housing: Provides essential services such as maintenance of Nation-owned buildings; year-round road maintenance, including snow removal and grading; management of the newly constructed water treatment plant located on the Nation; provision of water, sewer and garbage services.

FMFN468 Health Centre: is dedicated to providing a comprehensive range of healthcare services to its community members, including chronic disease prevention, diabetes management, communicable disease education, water safety monitoring and environmental health teaching. It also provides home care services such as client assessment, case management, nursing services, respite care, access to medical supplies and equipment. This also includes personal care assistance with tasks like bathing, dressing and feeding, as well as referrals to community supports.

The Health Centre ensures support for new parents through pre and postnatal care. It also facilitates cooking classes and community kitchens, offers parenting classes and runs a home visitation program for families.

A significant focus is placed on alcohol and substance abuse prevention and intervention, offering culturally appropriate programs, crisis counseling, outpatient services, support groups and referral to inpatient treatment centres.

Children’s services include a pre-kindergarten program grounded in Aboriginal culture, speech therapy and on-reserve daycare service. Other services include immunization, maternal child health services and medical transportation coordination.

FMFN is proud to also support many non-profit and charitable interests in Fort McMurray.

Shkopich explains, “We put on an annual golf tournament to raise funds for community wellness. With the support of our sponsors and participants, this year’s tournament raised $34,360 – beating our 2022 record of $25,000. We also enjoy supporting the Fort McMurray Festival of Trees and the Keyano College Gala. Additionally, FMFN468 is in a partnership with SMS Equipment to raise funds for the Wood Buffalo Food Bank.”

Existing and prospective FMFN468 members engage annually through a “reverse trade show,” where previous accomplishments are highlighted, information about the benefits of partnering is showcased and panel discussions take place.

“It’s a trade show that only displays booths from FMFN468 members and partners,” explains Shkopich. “Industries are invited to see our wholly owned divisions and partnerships. At this year’s Nation’s Industry Trade Show in May, 25 of our valued partners engaged guests with information, a panel discussion on sustainable Indigenous industry partnerships, networking and much more.”

With a growing list of partnerships, beneficial member services that are changing and improving lives and support for the surrounding community, FMFN468 is making a tangible difference while preserving its important culture, traditions and values. Soon it will be able to make an even larger impact thanks to a move to a bigger, more efficient centre of operations.

Shkopich is happy to note, “A brand new community centre is being built on the Nation. It will hold all the community events going forward, and all the business arms will be established at that community centre as well.”

It’s called the Nikinan Community Centre and it will open in 2024. The location, Indian Beach, holds deep cultural significance as a gathering place for the community. This is where, for many generations, the Nation gathered to hold ceremonies, celebrate and honour the past while looking to the future. Nikinan is Cree for “Our Place.” The centre and location could not be a more fitting match.

Fort McMurray First Nation 468 is a vibrant community that values its people, culture and land. Their commitment to self-governance, economic sustainability and overall community wellness is truly inspiring. The various services, programs and initiatives they offer, from social development to education and trades, reflect their dedication to fostering a thriving, self-sufficient community. As they look forward to the future, they celebrate not just the rich culture and history of the Nation, but also their vision for a future filled with collaboration, growth and prosperity. This community is a shining example of how unity, resilience and a deep respect for tradition can pave the way for progress, prosperity and positive change.

Learn more at FMFN468.com and on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.