A Step Towards Economic Reconciliation

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First Nations Leadership at the Chiefs of Ontario Annual Chiefs Assembly in Thunder Bay, Ontario © Courtesy of Chiefs of Ontario

COO welcomes $25-million investment for economic development initiatives

By Ashley Albert

For decades, First Nations across the province have advocated for economic reconciliation and to be full participants in Ontario and Canada’s social, cultural and economic landscape to generate wealth and establish self-sufficiency. Often focusing on local opportunities such as retail stores, gas stations and other on-reserve companies, First Nations have begun to expand into other industries, and they are now a key driver of growth, job creation and prosperity and play a vital role in strengthening the economy of Ontario and Canada as a whole.

In 2019, the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) were mandated by a resolution from the Chiefs-in-Assembly to advance economic development for First Nations across Ontario. This includes working with the federal and provincial governments to increase funding for economic development initiatives.

Through this resolution, the COO re-established the Economic Development Department and the First Nations Economic Growth and Prosperity Table (Prosperity Table), a partnership between the COO and the Government of Ontario. The Prosperity Table is guided by the Chiefs Committee on Economic Development, composed of Chiefs from across Ontario, to promote collaboration and economic cooperation between First Nations leadership in Ontario and the Government of Ontario. The Prosperity Table works on joint priorities to strengthen economic development opportunities for First Nations in Ontario with surrounding economies, industries and business partners.

economic reconciliation
ORC Glen Hare © Courtesy of Chiefs of Ontario

One significant achievement of the Prosperity Table was securing $25 million in funding over the next three years from the Government of Ontario for economic development initiatives.

Ontario Regional Chief Hare welcomed the announcement of this investment. “This investment will stimulate post-pandemic recovery and build prosperous First Nations communities. It is also an opportunity to create long-term solutions, rooted in mutual respect and collaboration, to ensure First Nations are successful on a local, regional, national and global level,” he said. “It is through a strategic, First Nations-led mechanism called the First Nations Economic Growth and Prosperity Table, a joint table with the Government of Ontario, which enabled us to secure this investment and move forward on our shared priority of achieving economic growth for all Ontarians.”

According to the Government of Ontario, the funding will help Indigenous businesses and communities recover post-pandemic, help modernize business processes, help remove barriers to apprenticeship, and provide training opportunities.

Creating a New Legacy, a report published by the COO in 2022, stated that “sufficient access to capital is frequently cited as a challenge for small and medium-sized First Nations enterprises across Canada. First Nations businesses have greater difficulty accessing capital and, as a result, typically have a greater reliance on government financing in their start-up phase.”

Arvind Sharma, Director of Economic Development at the COO, explained that accessing capital and wealth creation are two of the biggest challenges that First Nations face when starting their businesses. Sufficient, ongoing funding for economic development initiatives will go a long way in helping First Nations start their enterprises.

Read the full story at chiefs-of-ontario.org

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The main objective of the Chiefs of Ontario office is to facilitate the discussion, planning, implementation and evaluation of all local, regional and national matters affecting the First Nations people of Ontario.

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