OHSWEKEN, ON — Ron Jamieson is an enrolled member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve and is currently a partner with the financial services intermediary First Canadian Property Investments Ltd., which he co-owns with two non-Aboriginal partners: Derek Cathcart and Paul Robinson. The boutique investment bank lists several of the major Canadian banks, public pension funds, and airlines as clients.
Jamieson is the patriarch of an accomplished family. His sister, Roberta Jamieson, was the first indigenous woman to ever earn a law degree in Canada.
Jamieson’s son, Matthew Jamieson, served as Six Nations’ Economic Development Director until he convinced the Council to spin out the Department into an independent Grand River Economic Development Corporation. The governance structure was adopted in 2015, largely to limit its accountability to the Council, following the political backlash that stemmed from Jamieson’s signature economic development initiative, in which he attempted to locate a non-Aboriginal owned brewery on the territory.
The family is likely to field a candidate for Chief but has not settled on who the contender will be.
Ron is widely credited with creating what is now referred to as Aboriginal Banking in Canada, towards the later part of a successful career with the Bank of Montreal. Until the late 1990s, it was nearly impossible for most folks living in Reserve communities to access mortgage loans because of title restrictions on Indian land.
After being prompted by the Bank — considered a ‘federal works’ in Canada — to make recommendations on how it might be more inclusive of aboriginal communities, Jamieson came up with the innovation that would allow for some on-Reserve access to mortgage loans, albeit limited. The Reserve government, known in Canada a ‘band council’, would first scrutinize the mortgage applicant’s creditworthiness and agree to take on the financial risks associated with no-recovery default, since the Bank itself could not repossess the land while a band council can under the Indian Act.
Those lending programs have become some of the most lucrative and low-risk segments of Canada’s mortgage industry, and Jamieson is widely credited, even earning The Order of Canada in 2014.
Doing business with Six Nations
Some longtime community observers have questioned the propriety of Ron Jamieson engaging in ‘economic development’ business with Six Nations while his son, Matthew, plays such a senior role as Six Nations’ principal economic development official.
Ron’s firm is widely engaged in deal-making with Six Nations — often architecting deals directly with his son. That arrangement is rife with conflict of interest concerns, observers argue.
“Matthew Jamieson has an obvious conflict of interest if his dealings on behalf of the community enrich his father,” says one member of the Council who asked not to be named. “The Council may launch an investigation, but we would need to bring in outside Counsel because we don’t have the staff.”
“Our background and track record create opportunities for a variety of specialized initiatives, including advising First Nations on major capital projects, structured investments, and financing land claims litigation,” their website explains.
The firm advises First Nations governments on equity and debt financing, alternative energy projects, water distribution systems, public-private-partnerships (PPPs), asset valuations, dealing with government agencies, and financing litigation expenses.
Among his dealings with his son was the purchase and financing of green energy investments, including Six Nations of the Grand River’s acquisition of a 10% interest in the 100MW Grand Renewable Solar and 150MW Grand Renewable Wind farm projects, and a 50% interest in 230MW Niagara Region Wind Farm located in southwestern Ontario, among others.
The extent of the Jamiesons’ dealings are not publicly known, and the Council’s new economic development entity no longer answers to the Council.
The new governance structure that Jamieson created includes two separate Boards, each with a limited scope of governance. His critics say that design is intended to allow Jamieson to triangulate between the two Boards, now able to avoid the accountability that would come from a more centralized governing structure.
Whomever the Jamiesons may or may not back for Chief, he or she will face the popular young Councillor Mark Hill, who is expected to wage a broad-based campaign.