Northern Ontario Tribal Councils have recognized the need to provide hands-on environmentally related training to our community members. We continually strive to bring new content, focus, and training opportunities to NOFNEC participants, in order to meet environmentally oriented education and training needs of our First Nations.
In 2011, a Committee of 5 Tribal Councils and OFNTSC came together to offer the first annual Northern Ontario First Nations Environment Conference. In 2016, eight Tribal Councils, OFNTSC and one First Nation worked together on a larger event, held in Thunder Bay at the Nor’wester Hotel and Conference Centre. The 2016 NOFNEC & Tradeshow was attended by over 190 delegates and garnered tremendous media attention as the “premier environmental” event for northern Ontario First Nations. This reputation of NOFNEC was upheld in 2019 with another successful NOFNEC & Tradeshow event, organized by 12 Tribal Councils, and attended by over 184 delegates.
With the growing success of NOFNEC year-to-year, the 2020 Northern Ontario First Nation Environment Conference (NOFNEC) event was anticipated to be well attended and represented. Due to the global pandemic (COVID-19) the Planning Committee made the decision to look for alternatives to hosting an in-person event. An online event was not considered to be a satisfactory replacement as many First Nation communities do not have reliable Internet capable of streaming live broadcasts, nor dedicated or available hardware (computers). Instead, we will be bringing NOFNEC to you in a new way, introducing technologies and skills suited for the virtual world we have now entered.
This year, the Committee is working with professionals in the field of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to bring training and innovation right to your door. A Scope of Work was carefully developed to determine which environmental activities we believe can successfully reach our target audience. We happily landed on the field of Waste Management. This was a well-attended and highly valued part of past NOFNEC events, with endless opportunities for learning and growth. As the majority of the PC members are also "Waste Coordinators", the merging of local resources and our combined knowledge will help to fuel this project. The goal is to provide this material to communities as a useful tool to enhance community engagement in the many new Waste Management projects happening across the region.
In order to promote this year's new approach, the PC has updated the website, created a Facebook page, and released a video to promote NOFNEC for years to come. The PC intends to upload to the Facebook page the previous conference workshop videos, new waste management information (regulator & otherwise), as well as future live education training and educational videos, should COVID-19 be prolonged. This will also be a central hub for sharing our new AR and VR endeavours.
Strategies are being developed to deliver the AR and VR experiences to our delegates in their home communities, allowing for the learning and training to continue in a safe way, from home.