Eco­nomic Im­pact of At­lantic Canada’s In­dige­nous Peo­ples Big – Very BIG

Trillions - - In This Issue -

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.

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