The National Indigenous Economic Strategy was launched Monday in hopes of ensuring prosperity and participation of Canada’s First Peoples who have largely gone underserved in the economic makeup of the country.
More than 25 Indigenous organizations across Canada contributed to the document, which was written by a core set of five Indigenous organizations and focuses on four key pillars meant to guide businesses, governments and financial institutions on people, lands, infrastructure and financing.
“All Canadians benefit when Indigenous peoples’ economies grow,” said Dawn Madahbee Leach, chair of the National Indigenous Economic Strategy. The strategy strategy outlines 107 “calls to economic prosperity” that are driven and led by Indigenous groups.
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Madahbee Leach said the strategy is integral to helping government and businesses transition to a net-zero economy, which is becoming more of a focus as the countdown ticks down to 2030, the year many net-zero pledges culminate.
“I think we provide a rich perspective that needs to be shared and adopted in all approaches as we embark on this path to reverse climate change,” she said. “It’s been our people who’ve always talked about that and tried to share teachings on how to best do this.”
Indigenous economic struggles
In May, Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Lawrence Schrembi described colonial policies as direct challenges to Indigenous prosperity. Laws and treaties stripped populations of access to quality education and basic human rights that “undermined their political and economic sovereignty.”
“These policies have led to geographic and economic isolation, financial dependence and widespread poverty and suffering,” Schrembi said in a speech before the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association.
Access to capital remains a struggle, limiting the number of new businesses and employment opportunities in First Nations communities. A 2016 report by the National Indigenous Economic Development Board found that closing those opportunity gaps could boost Canada’s gross domestic product by 1.5 per cent annually, or $$27.7 billion.
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The strategy comes out of the OECD’s recommendation in 2020 that Canada needed a national blueprint focused on Indigenous prosperity. “When we saw that recommendation, as Indigenous people, we didn’t want to go through that exercise again that we have many times in the past, where we are engaged to talk … and then the strategy comes out and doesn’t reflect anything that we had suggested,” said Madahbee Leach. “So this time, we took hold of the pen.”
First Nations University of Canada based in Saskatoon will track the progress of the strategy, which is set to be “living,” meaning it can be amended as time goes on.
“We’re going to keep it current and we’re going to measure the progress and publicize that,” Madahbee Leach said.