Join us in welcoming Billie Fortier as one of the new voices of the Forward Summit Leadership Council. Having Billie join the Forward Summit Leadership Council with her wealth of knowledge and experience creates opportunities for new perspectives on Indigenous economics from a legal standpoint.
In this video from her panel at Forward Summit, Billie explains where she gets her inspiration. Moreover, get Billie’s thoughts on how the legal landscape can impact the growth of Indigenous communities, businesses and people.
Billie Fortier is a member of the Fort McKay Métis and practices law in Calgary, Alberta with the law firm, MLT Aikins LLP. Billie represents First Nations and Métis communities in negotiations with resource companies to establish joint ventures and other business relationships. She has advised the leadership of several First Nations on a variety of matters, including corporate structuring of Nation-owned businesses, financial administration and governance. She also advises clients across a number of industries on general commercial matters and in connection with M&A and corporate reorganizations.
Billie has appeared before the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Provincial Court of Alberta, and has experience with regulatory proceedings before the Alberta Utilities Commission and the Alberta Energy Regulator.
- How was your experience at Forward Summit 2019? How would you describe the event?
I was fortunate to be able to speak on two separate panels at the Forward Summit 2019. I was impressed with the high caliber of the event and the variety of timely and important topics discussed, particularly considering it was the inaugural year for this event. It was also very exciting to see an almost 50/50 split of attendees representing industry and Indigenous communities and businesses. When I was involved with the panel discussions, I was most struck by the respectful and constructive dialogue amongst the attendees and the panelists. There was no undertone of “us vs. them”, but rather a group of people who were genuinely interested in engaging with each other towards a common purpose.
- What does economic reconciliation mean to you?
Economic reconciliation means removing the barriers from Indigenous communities, business and people being able to engage in either their local or national economy. Indigenous peoples make up about 5% of Canada’s population, but their engagement in the Canadian economy is known to be much lower than it could be. There are huge opportunities for growth for Indigenous businesses across Canada, but paternalistic government policies and legislation like the Indian Act, amongst other things, have hindered Indigenous economies. Removing these obstacles does not only benefit Indigenous peoples; increasing productivity in Indigenous communities strengthens the Canadian economy as a whole and therefore benefits all Canadians.
- In what way can the legal landscape impact the growth of Indigenous communities, businesses and people?
Pursuant to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous peoples have the right to and must be able to foster and enforce their own customary legal systems. Indigenous communities and members will be empowered if Indigenous legal approaches are reconciled with the Canadian common law. The imposition of a foreign legal system is a barrier to growth for Indigenous communities. More and more Indigenous communities are moving towards a form of self-government, and for this model to be successful it necessarily includes the right of self-governing Indigenous communities to implement and enforce their own laws and legal framework.