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    The Power Within Canada’s Indigenous Nation as a Collective Business Group

    It is forecasted that Indigenous people as a businesses group could generate $100 billion in Canada in the foreseeable future.

    “32 billion Indigenous dollars contributed to Canada’s economy in 2016 and more than $12 billion was from indigenous businesses,” said The Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business president and CEO JP Gladu.


    JP Gladu.The Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business president and CEO


    Each year, aboriginal financial institutions provide over $100 million in loans to 500 indigenous-owned start-ups and 750 existing businesses. Aboriginal financial institutions have a current aggregate loan portfolio of $329 million. Currently through their loans, the network on an annual basis contributes $400 million to Canada’s GDP.


    I’m part of a group that is talking about targeting $100 billion dollars of GDP impact by closing the barriers for Indigenous people.” Shannin Metatawabin, CEO of the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association

    Shannin Metatawabin
    CEO of the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association


    The organization has been able to provide 46,000 loans worth over $2.6 billion since its inception in the 1990s and has just launched their Indigenous Growth Fund. The association was established when several Aboriginal Financial Institutions joined together — it was initially supported through approximately $240 million in government funding but hasn’t received any additional capital funding since. The money has been loaned out, repaid, and loaned out again, contributing to the $2.6 billion that Aboriginal Financial Institutions have distributed since the ’90s.


    “For every $1 an Aboriginal Financial Institution provides in loans, about $3.60 is added to Canadian GDP,” says Metatawabin.


    Additionally he said, “Indigenous people are looked at as an expense by the government and what really we should be doing is looking at them as an investment.”


    The Canadian Pipeline industry is a very contentious but lucrative business Indigenous leaders are looking to get into. Currently they are discussing how to obtain a substantial part of the new energy pipelines, starting with the Trans Mountain expansion. The Iron Coalition and Project Reconciliation from Alberta, seek to bring together hundreds of First Nation communities across Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan to purchase part of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.


    It’s a game-changer for Indigenous people to acquire ownership of an asset that’s going to make money for communities,” said Iron Coalition co-chair Tony Alexis, Chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.


    Iron Coalition co-chair Tony Alexis, Chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation


    There are about 120 Alberta and B.C. First Nations along the Trans Mountain corridor, and more than 40 of them have signed or accepted highly lucrative mutual benefit agreements with Kinder Morgan “Our group recognizes the viability of the pipeline and that ownership will be beneficial to not only our communities, but to Canada as a whole.” said Chief Alexis.


    As we have seen, there is negative propaganda suggesting Indigenous groups are against pipelines and the oilsands, however Project Reconciliation executive director Delbert Wapass, former chief of Thunderchild First Nation northeast of Lloydminster said, “I respect Indigenous groups that genuinely oppose Trans Mountain Pipeline, but they’re in the minority.”


    Wapass also said he won’t allow for outside interests to keep his people impoverished. “We need money to create that hope within our kids and their kids,” he said.”


    The area surrounding Alberta’s oil sands is particularly rich with indigenous-owned businesses related to the natural resource industry. Between 2013 and 2016, oilsands companies purchased goods and services valued at a total of $7.3 billion (an average of about $1.8 billion per year) from 399 Indigenous businesses. These companies represent 65 communities across Alberta.



    Indigenous businesses are key drivers of employment, wealth creation and better socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous people and communities. It is suggested that when communities come together, prosperity, health and wellness collide. When this powerful and flourishing collective is established, unity and prosperity can be expected for all Canadians.


    I like to remind people that Canada’s first economic engine was powered by the Indigenous people,” JP Gladu, The Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business President and CEO

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