FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Fort St. John’s City Manager Dianne Hunter will be heading to Peru for 10 days as part of Sustainable and Inclusive Communities in Latin America — or CISAL for short.
CISAL is a $20 million, five-year initiative funded by the Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. Canadian partners of the program work to strengthen the capacity of local governments in Colombia and Peru to successfully manage the impacts and benefits of mining development and promote sustainable economic growth.
“It’s a peer-to-peer exchange program with myself working with similar staff members in Peru, and I’m hoping to learn as much as I’m able to offer,” Hunter said.
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In June 2016, partners of the CISAL Program will travel to Manitoba’s mining regions to better understand the mining and municipal context in Canada and identify potential areas of technical assistance.
Mayor Lori Ackerman was supposed to go along on the trip, however, according to Hunter, she had to opt out due to a scheduling conflict.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities invited the Mayor to attend an orientation program at the conference in Edmonton in 2015. Mayor Ackerman attended that conference, and following that conference, applied for the City of Fort St. John to be part of the program — which was accepted.
The reason the Federation reached out, Hunter said, is because of Fort St. John’s first-hand experience with balancing the keeping the interests of the community a priority while extractive resource operations to carry on nearby.
“The City of Fort St. John has certainly taken a position to protect and promote the community when it comes to large projects such as Site C or LNG,” she said.
“We recognize that we are not decision makers, just as these communities are not decision makers in that regard.”
The representatives will be visiting an area near Cusco, Peru. The remote area is accessible via a seven hour pickup truck ride from Cusco, Peru, according to Hunter. She says they are rural, agrarian communities at a high altitude that rely on sheep and goat herding, and are impacted by Canadian mining operations.
CISAL Program Manager Suzanne Belliveau says communities affected by natural resource developments in Peru receive money directly from mining royalties that can be used for local development. In Canada, she noted, that’s a lot more rare. Fort St. John has a similar agreement through the Province in the Peace River Agreement.
While City Council hasn’t entered a four-year agreement with FCM just yet, Council will be deciding if they want to head forward with the program on a regular basis upon her return.
“You often find you learn about your own community in odd, strange and different ways as well when you see how communities from a foreign country deal with similar problems that you have,” said Hunter.
Hunter said FCM is covering the costs of the trip, and Council has made the commitment to cover her time in order to go on the trade mission.
She will be departing for Peru this week.