Economic Impact of Atlantic Canada’s Indigenous Peoples Big – Very BIG
Many Canadians see their natives (First Nations) as being a drain on the economy and a people that have to be taken care of and given special treatment. This paradigm was so deeply ingrained in European-canadian society that First Nations were even excluded from the Canadian Human Rights Charter until 2008 at the federal level and 2011 at the provincial level.
A study published earlier this year revealed statistics that surprise many Canadians — the combined spending of indigenous businesses, households and bands in Atlantic Canada alone is over $1.14 billion.
The findings, published in a report in 2016, looked at detailed financial data from band operations throughout all the provinces in Atlantic Canada. It also analyzed the economic impact of their spending. Together the numbers added up to a $1.14-billion impact on the region’s economy.
Many may have been surprised by these results, but they should not be. The indigenous peoples of Canada are both some of the hardest working and fastest growing segments of the economy. And those in Atlantic Canada are no different.
Consider some of this data from the analysis:
The indigenous economy itself created 16,733 fulltime equivalent jobs in the region.
A total of $184.5 million in federal and government tax revenue is generated by those peoples.
A total of $710.9 million in household income is generated by the same Atlantic region populations.
In Nova Scotia alone, the 16,543 indigenous peoples generate some $63.3 million in government tax revenue. New Brunswick is tied with Nova Scotia, at $63.3 million. Quebec rings in with $32.6 million, Newfoundland and Labrador at $19.2 million and Prince Edward Island at $6.0 million.
And throughout all of Atlantic Canada some $710.9 million in household income is generated.
This is about far more than just being hardworking.
The indigenous peoples also lead much of the regional entrepreneurial economy. The study estimates that 300 indigenous start-ups are currently operating in Atlantic Canada, with 77% of those established since the year 2000.
Of those start-ups, 72% operate “on the reserve.” The 28% operating “off the reserve” may explain why such entrepreneurial drive is not always that evident to the non-indigenous members of the provinces’ populations. Of the employees working at those start-ups, 68% are indigenous and 32% are non-indigenous.
And when you consider that these start-ups will seed the future growth of both the indigenous and local economies, those employees, their families and where they live will benefit even more from all of them in the future.
All of this adds up to what is, as was noted briefly at the start of this article, quite a surprise for many not familiar with the financial strength of the indigenous economy. It amounts to more than a “force to be reckoned with.” It is also so powerful that it deserves “many seats at the table” when provincial and national economic policies are being drawn up.
Canada does provide a leg-up to many First Nations companies by offering grants up to $99,999 for business development at the federal level. In addition some provinces offer assistance as do many First Nations tribal organizations.
Training is also readily available for many First Nations peoples seeking to gain new skills.
The types of First Nations businesses vary greatly. One recent example is the development on the Waycobah, Reserve in the Cape Breton region of Nova that consists of new mini mall that opened in early December. Located on the Transcanada Highway, this mini mall employs about 50 people and includes a gas bar, convenience store and Tim Hortons.
There are some 27 workers at the new Tim Horton’s and unlike many Tim Hortons across Canada, most of the workers are not imported from the Philippines but are from right there on the Reserve.
The band's Chief, Rod Googoo, brought his business background to managing his community. When much of Cape Breton is at a standstill, this small, rural, First Nation community is forging ahead, taking on new business ventures and creating jobs.
“The Future Has Come to Waycobah”, says Chief Googoo. “We realized that we had to go out into the world. We’re not waiting for things to happen.”
And entrepreneurial things are certainly happening for his band. In addition to the new mini-mall, the band operates a security company which employs 40 guards, with another eight waiting in the wings. They have security contracts with Northern Pulp, Port Hawkesbury Paper, the Bear Head LNG project, and on the Maritime Link, both in Newfoundland and Cape Breton.
The community owns its own fishing boats and has a new trout farm and processing plant. The trout farm venture made the band $1 million in gross revenue with a 20% profit last year. Next year, the band hopes to triple sales. The Chief says there are more than 100 from his community working in the fisheries.
Chief Googoo said his band reduced the cost of social assistance to its lowest level ever. With a population of 1,000 and of the 450 working aged residents on the reserve, 420 have jobs. The local employment means that band members don't have to move away to find work, like many of the non-natives have to.
One of the things that is helping First Nations progress is their deep sense of community and caring for each other. By working together and attending to each other's needs they are creating a new more sustainable tribal culture in the modern age that can serve as a model for all people.
Chief Googoo with Tim Horton's staff Alyssa Phillips and Kelsey Bernard, both from Waycobah.