Creating opportunities: Chief Sidney Peters has bold ambitions for N.S.’s Glooscap First Nation
By Mark Campbell
Chief Sidney Peters (Dip Tech Agriculture’84) is the fourth chief of Nova Scotia’s Glooscap First Nation. Drawing on his experience with Indigenous housing programs, he’s leading efforts to rebuild the community’s fortunes and pride through new policies, housing and investments. Next up: financial self-sufficiency.
When Chief Sidney Peters became the fourth chief of Glooscap First Nation in 2012, the community was struggling. The population was aging, economic activity was limited and issues related to band remuneration not only hamstrung community investments, but also attracted considerable negative media coverage.
“People in the community were ashamed,” recalls Chief Peters. “The challenge was how to bring back the pride of being a Glooscap band member.”
The priority for Chief Peters was to rebuild trust and respect for the community’s governance team. He led the development of new band policies and procedures and proposed new salaries.
“We were starting from scratch,” Chief Peters says. “Part of the reasoning was to recruit or bring back qualified people to help the community grow. Within a year, we generated $430,000 in savings. That enabled us to create more jobs. It also meant we could start sharing the wealth.”
To build on that momentum, Chief Peters established Glooscap Ventures, an economic development corporation that is working toward making the community self-sustaining. The corporation has made significant progress in meeting that goal, through the purchase of 28 acres of land for commercial use and controlling interest in a Yarmouth fish plant. Chief Peters has also promoted investments in renewable energy projects such as solar panel installations that are generating additional revenue for community building. He led the development of a new community centre that has a daycare, library and a performance space. And he drew on his extensive expertise working with Indigenous housing programs to construct new homes to bring more families into the community.
“In those programs, you could get caught up in the dollars or the paperwork,” he says. “But if you don’t think about the people you’re making a difference for, it doesn’t mean much. That is what I like about what I do—the knowledge that I’ve done something that has had an impact for others, like providing them with a place they can call home.”
As excited as Chief Peters was to discover that his efforts to strengthen his community had earned him an Aurum Award from his Dalhousie alumni, he sees the honour as a shared one. “It wasn’t just me,” he clarifies. “It was everybody behind the scenes who did this. I’m just trying to keep it moving forward so there is a better place for the younger ones as they grow up.”
That better place that Chief Peters envisions is a self-sustaining community—one that requires no federal funding. But more than that, he envisions a community of wide-ranging professional services and expertise that he hopes all Nova Scotians will draw on when they need anything from financial to legal advice.
“That is what I’d like to see—a future where we do not have to depend on others and our people no longer feel second class or afraid to move forward,” Chief Peters says. “I want to continue working toward that until it is time to step back and have someone else take over.”