Aboriginal Participation Fund Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is the Aboriginal Participation Fund?

The Ministry is launching the Aboriginal Participation Fund (APF) that will help Aboriginal communities and organizations better understand the mining sector and realize greater benefits from mining activities in or near their communities. The program will have three streams that:

  • enable Aboriginal communities greater participation in the review of exploration plans, permit applications and closure plans;
  • support values mapping and related projects that will enhance the capacity of Aboriginal communities to participate in consultation on mineral exploration and development processes; and
  • help Aboriginal communities enhance their understanding of mineral exploration and development processes as well as support the development of relationships between Aboriginal communities, industry and government.

This program aligns with the ministry’s core business activities/priorities, including its Aboriginal Affairs Strategy, the renewed Ontario Mineral Development Strategy, The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, as well as with the refreshed Provincial Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy (Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs) and Resource Benefits Sharing (Land and Resource ministries). It also ensures compliance with the government’s Transfer Payment Accountability Directive.

The application process will ensure that Ontario fairly allocates funds to communities, and will make transfer payments faster, more transparent and more efficient in the long run.

What will it fund?

The program will fund activities similar to those previously covered by Mines and Minerals Division transfer payments for capacity building in Aboriginal communities/Tribal Councils/Aboriginal organizations, under three distinct program streams:

  1. Mineral Development Advisor Positions & Support Funding - Funding to enable Aboriginal communities to review exploration plans, permit applications and closure plans
  2. Values Mapping & Related Projects - Funding for values mapping and related projects that will enhance the capacity of Aboriginal communities to participate in consultation and engagement activities around mineral exploration and development processes; and
  3. Education & Relationship Building - Funding to enable Aboriginal communities to enhance their understanding of mineral exploration and development processes, and to support the development of relationships between Aboriginal communities, industry and government.

Are there any transfer payment activities currently funded by MNDM that will become ineligible under the program?

We do not anticipate any previously funded activity becoming ineligible. We will take a balanced approach to reviewing applications to ensure that as many projects as possible are supported. This will ensure that priority is given to the projects that meet the stream criteria. However, the ministry has developed evaluation criteria to help guide project funding decisions, which could result in some applications not being approved.

MNDM encourages all potential applicants to carefully read the program guidelines that are available through Grants Ontario and ensure their applications reflect what is requested of each stream.

How does the funding process differ from the previous transfer payment system used to fund capacity building projects in Aboriginal communities?

Through the province’s Aboriginal Participation Fund, Aboriginal communities will now fill out an application to apply for capacity and relationship funding. Applicants will be able to request funding through the Grants Ontario website. Once the application is received, the ministry will use approved and transparent guidelines and criteria to assess and allocate funds to communities. Transfer payments have been negotiated on a case-by-case basis as needed, by the Aboriginal Affairs Branch (AAB) since 2009. As part of the on-going modernization of the Mining Act, a three-year capacity funding pilot project was also initiated in 2012.

The program will incorporate a balanced criteria-based decision making process. This will increase efficiency and effectiveness of the program’s overall management.  It will also incorporate streamlined processes and improved monitoring and tracking to better assess outcomes for the purposes of ongoing program evaluation and risk assessment.

When does the program come into effect?

The Mineral Development Advisor position stream of the program was launched in early 2016 with full implementation of the rest of the program in February 2016. In the interim, we have already begun raising awareness of this change with our established transfer payment recipients. More information will follow as we move into the formal launch and implementation phases of the program.

Aboriginal communities were used to the transfer payment process. Why are we moving to this model?

The ministry, through the Aboriginal Affairs Branch, has been delivering transfer payments since 2009. The capacity funding transfer payment process was developed in 2012 as a pilot project due to expire in 2016. The program design is part of the Ontario government’s Program Review, Renewal and Transformation (PRRT) initiative detailed in the 2015 Ontario Budget focused on finding smarter, better ways to deliver the best possible value for every dollar spent.

In 2014, Mines and Minerals Division carried out a review of its Aboriginal transfer payments to identify gaps, needs and opportunities for improvements in the funding that is delivered to Aboriginal communities to support mineral exploration and development. It was determined that this process will help the Ministry better assess the outcomes of the funding. It identified a number of opportunities for improvement based on lessons learned.  In addition, it recognized the overall value of continuing with the program for a period of time in areas with high mineral development activities.

An application-based program will allow for better operational planning and resource allocation.  It will help promote multi-year thinking/staging of initiatives such as values mapping by recipients.  As part of the implementation plan, program performance measures are being developed. While the original transfer payment program components are being retained under this program, we are expanding it to support other activities that build consultation and engagement capacity as well as opportunities for building knowledge of the broader mineral development sector.

Will there be new funding for this program?

The Aboriginal Participation Fund will utilize the allocation currently being delivered via transfer payments. The total funding envelope for this program is $4.9 million annually.

What training or other resources will be provided to communities to help them learn to use this program?

The Ministry is providing training and assistance to communities wishing to submit applications. The program has its own application forms, guides, templates, as well as other required process mapping and an accountability framework for program administration.

The program is accessible through the Grants Ontario portal, the same portal used by the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs’ New Relationship Fund, which many Aboriginal communities and organizations are using now. 

How will this affect the status of the Mineral Development Advisors in my community whose position is currently supported by transfer payments?

Positions currently supported by transfer payments will be eligible to apply for funding under the program. We have communicated with these communities to provide assistance in submitting an application fitting the program criteria.

Are you not just making it more complicated and cumbersome for Aboriginal groups and communities to secure funding for capacity building?

Aboriginal communities may be familiar with this application process as other Ontario ministries providing financial assistance to Aboriginal communities utilize similar, well established processes. This Ministry initiative is part of a pan-government effort to identify short- and longer-term opportunities to transform programs and services and link them to the government’s key priorities. By implementing our Aboriginal Participation Fund, we believe we are making funding to Aboriginal communities more fair, open, and transparent. We are confident that with appropriate training, support and time to adapt to this process, the ability of our current transfer payment partners to deliver the best value for money will be significantly enhanced.

Will the program apply to Ring of Fire communities with existing transfer payment agreements with the Ring of Fire Secretariat such as the Regional Framework Agreement?

Any funding agreements signed to support Ontario’s Regional Framework Agreement with the Matawa-member First Nations communities or any other bilateral agreements with these communities would be separate from transfer payment agreements entered into as part of the Aboriginal Participation Fund.

The Ring of Fire Secretariat will continue to ensure that funding flowed to Aboriginal communities in the Ring of Fire is used in accordance with the requirements of these transfer payment agreements through the completion of required reporting (progress reports, expense reports and audited financial statements) on a timely basis. Any funding request under the Aboriginal Participation Fund would have to be submitted through, and in accordance with, the program protocols and would remain entirely separate from these existing transfer payment agreements.

Are you implementing this program to satisfy your duty to consult?

Ontario remains committed to fulfilling its duty to consult with First Nations where it may arise. The Aboriginal Participation Fund creates new opportunities to add to the exchange of information that builds and strengthens relationships among Aboriginal communities/Tribal Councils/Aboriginal organizations, government and industry.

One of the objectives of this program is to assist the Province in meeting its duty to consult by helping Aboriginal communities develop the ability to build knowledge and partake fully in consultation activities. Ontario continues to make efforts to consult with communities whose Aboriginal and/or treaty rights may be impacted by proposed early exploration activities. The program aims to expand the ability of Aboriginal communities to participate in, and benefit from, mineral resource and other economic development opportunities and strives to build stronger relationships with Aboriginal communities and organizations that could lead to greater economic development opportunities.

Have Aboriginal leaders been consulted on this change in procedure?

MNDM carried out an evaluation of its Aboriginal capacity building program, first piloted as part of the second phase of the Mining Act modernization process. Mineral Development Advisor positions, education and training and other elements were all introduced to support Aboriginal participation in the regulatory decision-making processes under the modernized Mining Act.

MNDM has since engaged formally and informally with those Mineral Development Advisors to receive feedback on the pilot program. Much of the feedback received has been reflected in the design of the funding program. Moreover, the spirit of the program hasn’t changed from that of the pilot program. Only the internal structure by which the Ministry considers and processes payments has. We will continue to work closely with Aboriginal communities to support an effective and seamless transition to the program’s application procedures.

Who should I contact if I have questions about the Aboriginal Participation Fund?

For further information on the Aboriginal Participation Fund, you may contact your MNDM Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer or Mineral Exploration and Development Consultant.

Why is the program launch being phased in, with only the Mineral Development Advisor stream coming into effect at this time?

The ministry had to engage Aboriginal communities currently participating in MDA funding no later than year end 2015 so that they might apply for renewal under the funding program and criteria, before their current agreements lapse and local positions are placed in jeopardy. The second and third streams of the program should be available by April 1, 2016.

For further information on the Aboriginal Participation Fund, contact your Ministry of Northern Development and Mines Mineral Exploration and Development Consultant or your Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer.