Indigenous and Forestry Collective Development Is on the Move in Opitciwan
[Article written in collaboration with Véronique Édé, Communications Officer]
The Coopérative de Travail Inter-Nations (CTIN) was born in Opitciwan in 2009. Specialized in the field of forest management and integrated natural resource management, it has established itself in its territory and is now multiplying development projects.
The CTIN is the first Atikamekw enterprise to be part of a social economy model. The idea to form a cooperative was born out of a meeting of eight Atikamekw forestry workers, including Jean-Paul Awashish, who were unemployed for two years (2007-2008). Their goal was to allow people in the forestry field to take matters into their own hands by becoming owners of their enterprise while simultaneously being workers. Supported and accompanied by Jacques Verrier, an advisor in cooperative development in the community of Opitciwan, a group of founding members was created in the spring of 2009 and this collective project was established in the summer of 2009.
From the start, this collective enterprise has been able to provide work for approximately thirty of its members. It currently employs 84 people and has annual revenues of approximately $2.4 million. Since its inception, the CTIN has paid over $5 million in wages to Atikamekw forest workers and planted nearly 19 million trees.
The CTIN, which already holds BNQ-PGES certification attesting to the sound management practices of forestry enterprises carrying out non-commercial work (planting, brush cutting, forest inventories, etc.), received in May 2020 the forest management enterprise certification, a program aimed at limiting the impacts of the enterprise on the environment. These two certifications allow it to tender each year on all contracts from Rexforêt, an organization mandated by the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs to ensure the sustainable forest management of Quebec’s public forests. The enterprise’s clients include Hydro-Québec, the Société en commandite Scierie Opitciwan and the Gestion Forestière du Saint-Maurice.
An innovative training program deployed in 2020
In order to ensure entrepreneurial succession in shortwood harvesting, the CTIN has developed a training program that is innovative in more ways than one: the training contents are adapted to the Indigenous clientele and the learning is put into practice through the use of state-of-the-art equipment. Thanks to the “SPI – Forest Full Value” program of Indigenous Services Canada and Natural Resources Canada, the cooperative was able to acquire a Ponsse woodworking simulator in April 2020.
The complete simulator, which is Finnish technology, is the first of its kind imported into Canada. It is equipped with preprogrammed learning programs allowing to identically reproduce the functions of forest machines using Ponsse technology. It will train ten new employees per year in shortwood harvesting, for a total of 50 new workers over five years. The equipment will also be used for the continuing education of existing employees, at the rate of six employees per year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cooperative plans to develop an “interactive virtual classroom” for groups and to adapt the simulator learning process with a distance trainer.
Finally, cooperation education is also part of the training that the CTIN provides to its new members. They are more than employees: by becoming members of the cooperative, they collectively own production equipment and become creators of their own jobs.
In conclusion, the success of the Coopérative de Travail Inter-Nations demonstrates that the social economy model is today an excellent alternative for the economic development of First Nations.
Want to know more about the Coopérative de Travail Inter-Nations? Visit their website at www.coopinternations.ca (in French and in Atikamekw).