Paqtnkek captures national award at Cando Conference
By Sam Laskaris
Rose Paul certainly has a lot of perseverance.
Paul had been hired as the economic development officer for her Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation back in February of 2006.
The following year she came across some paperwork, which would end up having a major impact on her work responsibilities for numerous years.
“It was something I actually stumbled on in storage,” Paul said.
The ‘something’ Paul discovered were minutes of meetings and wordings from provincial and federal governments about a breached agreement involving her First Nation.
Back in the early 1960s, when Highway 104, which is part of the Trans-Canada Highway was constructed, Paqtnkek was basically divided into half. The southern portions of the First Nation were not developed since they were not easily accessible.
Paul was keen to change that.
“I’d seen their wrongdoing on my community,” Paul said of government officials who had initially downplayed the developmental impacts on Paqtnkek but then fought to deny any construction on the south side of the First Nation. “I wanted to rectify it.”
Though it took quite some time, Paul did just that. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Bayside Development Corporation, comprised of all the businesses at the Bayside Travel Centre.
Besides keeping up with her EDO duties, Paul has also served as the CEO of the corporation since it was launched in 2019.
People are no longer just driving through Paqtnkek now. They are frequently visiting the Bayside site, which includes a Husky diesel cardlock for those in the trucking industry, an Esso gas station, a convenience store, a Tim Hortons and a Mary Brown’s restaurant.
And that’s just some of the first phase of development on a 12-acre site.
“It’s known as the destination to be,” Paul said. “The project is a very victorious moment for us.”
The Bayside site also includes an entertainment centre, By The Bay which is a tourism and gift centre and a liquor store, the first provincially sanctioned Nova Scotia Liquor Store agency in a Mi’kmaq community.
And Bayside Development Corporation also recently received some national recognition as well. It captured the Indigenous Private Sector Business award at this year’s Cando Conference, which was held in late June in Membertou, N.S.
Paul was obviously ecstatic her First Nation garnered a prestigious accolade.
“I was very emotional and proud to see how far we have come,” she said. “It was deeply heartfelt to know we made it.”
The Bayside Development Corporation beat out the other finalist in its category, IRP Consulting, a Whitehorse-based company owned by a pair of Indigenous women, Davida Wood and Tosh Southwick.
Meanwhile, Norway House Cree Nation of Manitoba won the Indigenous Community of the Year at the conference while James Stevens of Millbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia was selected as the Economic Developer of the Year.
Despite numerous obstacles, including funding problems and layers of bureaucracy, Paul never gave up hopes of her vision of thriving businesses on the south side of her First Nation.
She kept plugging away to make her dream a reality, even though various chiefs and council members in her First Nation were changed over the years.
“It was a very long process, very difficult and a lot of barriers we had to go through,” Paul said.
But it was a process that she deemed necessary.
Lobbying for a highway interchange and connector roads eventually proved to be successful.
Having various businesses start welcoming customers at the Bayside Development Corporation was indeed a pleasant sight for Paul and others.
“It was a journey to achieve such a milestone for a community,” she said.
Paul, however, believes she should not be the only one receiving credit.
“I had a strong team,” she said. “The community trusted me. And the leadership trusted me to lead.”
That’s why Paul was pleased to have various Paqtnkek members join her when she accepted the Cando award.
“Everything was so moving bringing the team together on stage,” she said. “It gave us more empowerment and more motivation.”
Paul continues to lead the corporation. And in the near future she’ll be able to publicly discuss the next phase of Bayside expansion and the various new businesses expected to open up in Paqtnkek.
“We’re giving ourselves an 18-month window because it takes time to get everything together,” Paul said in early June 2023, adding the preliminary planning stages includes determining financing pieces and also securing funding partners.
Paul said it won’t be long, however, before construction commences on Bayside’s next phase.
“We’re looking to break ground in 2024 with the business centre,” she said. “Right now there’s a lot of different players at the table.”
Other initiatives in the community include a microgrid project to support net zero initiatives with solar development, battery storage and two rapid EVP charging stations. These renewable energy projects will all be housed in one building.
Paul added attending the Cando Conference proved to be rather fruitful.
“There was a lot of connections made, even between the winners,” she said.
Paul said Paqtnkek and Norway House Cree Nation officials are keen to collaborate on ventures in the future.
“We’re talking to them to see what we can do together,” she said. “Those connections were made at the Cando Conference.”