June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. This year, it is dedicated to the missing children, including the remains of 215 children found in British Columbia, the families left behind, and the survivors of residential schools. Monday, June 21 is also National Indigenous Peoples Day. A day when we commemorate heritage, culture and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
In recognition of National Indigenous History Month, we have put together a list of resources, grant programs, and initiatives that support Indigenous communities.
Supporting Indigenous businesses through challenges
In Canada, Indigenous businesses have long been successful in connecting communities, supporting trade, and building thriving economies. According to a Government of Canada 2019 study, Indigenous-owned small and medium entrepreneurs account for only 1.4 per cent of the total number of all SMEs in Canada. Yet, Indigenous people account for roughly 5 per cent of the total general population.
While it’s clear that systemic barriers and hurdles remain, there are several Canadian resources where Indigenous entrepreneurs can access funding and support for their ventures.
According to the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada face unique challenges when pursuing their entrepreneurial goals. These were documented in the NACCA’s 2020 report on Indigenous Women In Entrepreneurship.
Some of these obstacles include:
- Lower income and education levels which limit their ability to build equity to invest in a business
- Geographical distance from financial services in First Nations, rural, and remote regions
- Many Indigenous communities lack basic business infrastructure, such as reliable internet, business space.
Further, the Indian Act itself hinders Indigenous entrepreneurship through land title and property transfer limitations which impede access to business property.
The Indian Act was first written in 1876 and is the primary law which guides the federal government’s decisions around Indigenous status, governments, and lands. Although it has been amended since then, notably in the 1950s and 1980s, Section 89 and Section 87 of the act still hold major challenges for Indigenous business owners. This is because of property restrictions and taxation exemptions which can also complicate companies based on-reserve.
Reconciliation through entrepreneurship
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report recommended economic reconciliation as a crucial call to action. Six years later, here are some resources and social initiatives available to support, lead, inspire, and fund Indigenous communities in Canada as they undertake their entrepreneurial journey. The good thing is that many of these options are stackable—they can be combined to help ensure Indigenous entrepreneurs maximize their resources and funding.
General support for Indigenous entrepreneurs
Some initiatives and funding options for Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada are location- or community-based. However, some other options are more general and available to all Indigenous peoples in Canada, no matter where they are.
The NACCA offers an Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit business owners by providing funding through Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs).
NACCA aims to stimulate economic growth while increasing social and economic self-reliance and sustainability for Indigenous communities nationwide. So far, it has provided over 50,000 loans totalling over $3 billion to businesses owned by Indigenous entrepreneurs.
This is another option for Indigenous businesses. A branch of the federal government, they offer