By NC Raine

Chief Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota First Nation has been selected by the provincial government to chair the SaskPower board of directors. Chief Bear will be the first Indigenous person in Saskatchewan history to operate as Chair of a Crown Corporation.

“On a personal perspective, it’s humbling as far being asked to serve [as Chair] on one of the largest Crown Corporations in our province,” said Chief Bear in an interview with Treaty 4 News.

Bear replaces Joel Teal as Chair of the Board. SaskPower, as the primary electric utility in Saskatchewan, serves almost half a million customers and manages $7 billion in assets. SaskPower also is one of Saskatchewan’s major employers, with 2,800 employees in approximately 70 communities.

As Chief Bear also sits on the SIGA and SIIT boards, as well as serving as Chief of Dakota Whitecap First Nation, he understands the complexities of the role.

“When you sit on a board, you’re there to represent the board and the values of that corporation,” says Bear. “It’s not like one individual is going to making a ton of change. It’s about stewardship, the overall operation of SaskPower, and moving forward.”

Don Morgan, Deputy Premier, says that SaskPower will be addressing long term electrical needs, including looking at alternative power generation. He says Saskatchewan has a 300-year supply of coal and a clean coal facility which is operating well.

The Liberal government introduced a plan earlier this fall to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 in its plan to make Canada leader in green energy.

“You hear the federal government talking more and more about renewable energy projects,” says Bear. “[We are] looking at the current infrastructure and what the needs are going forward […] Anything we do will be done as a board. So we’ll eventually have those discussions.”

The SaskPower Board of Directors Chair is one of the many distinctions Chief Bear has earned in recent years. In 2011, he was honoured with the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and in the following year received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2016, he was presented with the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also chosen as one of the top 10 Indigenous economic developers in Saskatchewan by Treaty 4 News earlier this year.

Bear says he believes his appointment was predicated on his business acumen.

“The capacity we built [at Whitecap Dakota], as a small First Nation – at one time not even having one dollar in our bank account – going from 70 percent unemployment to a 5 percent unemployment rate. I think I bring a lot of those same values,” says Bear.

As not only one of the foremost leaders in his community, but in the province, Chief Bear continues to illustrate why education is so important for the future of our province.

“It goes to show, if you look around, you see more and more [Indigenous] people with post secondary educations and getting degrees, so there’s more business acumen out there. It’s really good to see that we’re getting young people educated in business. We need that. We want to see our young people in the CEO roles as well. The future is bright in that regard,” says Bear. “When you think about the demographics, by 2030 we’re going to represent 30% of the population in Saskatchewan. It’s important to continue to promote education for our young people.”

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