Health and safety regulations, digitization could expedite return to business

Economists around the world are sending local governments reeling with their analysis of what comes next in the “new normal” of our post-COVID reality.

The general consensus is that life will not go back to as it was — with the biggest changes hitting world economic structures. Changes that mean governments are working double time right now to bring their communities up to speed. In truth this is just the pace setting first haul of a marathon race into our future.

Six Nations has won a hard fought victory when it comes to local employment. In contrast to other reserve communities, whose only source of employment is sometimes the band and maybe one retail outlet — Six Nations of the Grand River has a functioning economy centred around things like tobacco, gas and other local businesses to provide products, services and fun for community members and visitors alike.

Since the 1990s the numbers of entrepreneurial enterprises on the territory has grown in leaps and bounds. The list is awesome: in addition to our tobacco industry we are home to construction companies, auto repair shops, hunting and sport supply stores, laundromats, hairdressers, clothing and fabric stores, white corn producers, jewellery and craft supply outlets, printing shops, event managers, architects, and greenhouses.

Six Nations has hands down the best local restaurants in a 50 kilometre radius — when you go out into the world nothing compares to the quality of breakfasts in our community. All of them cooked at the kind of mom and pop places run by whole families with their own house specials that locals come out for in droves. We even have a Chinese food restaurant!

Lest we forget the community is home to two indigenous owned Tim Hortons locations and a few Country Style coffee shops as well.

We have bakeries, caterers, potters, water purifiers, dance teachers, cable tv providers, a local inn, an Apple Store, tattoo parlours and recycling businesses.

That doesn’t even touch the community arenas – which are the birth place of sports hall of famers — and support the vitality sports brings to the community and the surrounding area.

Make no mistake – Six Nations is a hub in the area for life and life abundant!

But that has all been frozen in limbo by a virus smaller than the human eye can see. We are in an economic free-fall across the entire globe right now and Six Nations Elected Chief, Council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council have all got to unify and pull some nine-lives moves in order to protect the economy that band members have toiled to build over the last forty years — making sure that we all land on our feet.

Implementing a careful plan of real health and safety regulations on the territory could expedite a return to work environment and see traffic restrictions lifted maybe sooner than later. Something that will be so important for Six Nations who, despite our independent economic strength, is already in a constant struggle to bridge the gap between on-reserve life and life of Canadians. All of Canada’s economic pre-existing conditions are made worse by the pandemic.

Perhaps the most critical thing to expedite to keep us in the game right now is local access to internet service in the community. Businesses are turning to online platforms as web sales soar amidst physical distancing protocols.

The pandemic is accelerating the need for high speed internet access, affordable access to devices, and a quick transition to digitizing and automating work at all levels of service. Without all levels of government on board and ready to quickly transition to instant, online delivery of messaging, engagement and communication — Six Nations will get left in the dust.

For Six Nations and several other indigenous communities, things couldn’t be more precarious as the gap between rich and emerging markets widens— and the ability to be resilient in the face of community crises will become even more tough to manifest.

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