World Economy

Aboriginals Want Full Share in Canadian Economy

Aboriginals Want Full Share in Canadian EconomyAboriginals Want Full Share in Canadian Economy

The release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report has helped focus attention on the historical legacy of misguided policies that have directly led to the many challenges and hardships faced by aboriginal people and communities across Canada.

Reconciliation will remain elusive if a concerted effort is not made to close the gap in economic, education and health outcomes between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people in Canada. It will remain elusive as long as aboriginal people live in sub-standard housing and do not share many of the basic services and conditions that most Canadians take for granted, OttawaCitizen online reported.

The vision of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board is for aboriginal people to be economically self-sufficient and full participants in the Canadian economy.

NAEDB said, “The opportunities to share Canada’s prosperity has never been better for aboriginal people, including the recognition of our rights and title in Canadian courts, the willingness of the private sector to partner with aboriginal communities and businesses, increasing collaboration between aboriginal communities and neighboring municipalities, and aboriginal leadership that increasingly see economic development as a means to greater independence.”

Success stories include the 450-member Osoyoos Indian Band who created a tourism business generating annual revenues in excess of $40 million and employing 1,200 people; Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia, the first aboriginal government in Canada to be ISO 9001 certified. And there are many more.

“In 2012, we set a bold goal that economic and social parity be achieved by 2022. This week, our First Report Card was released–the Aboriginal Economic Progress Report,” NAEDB report said.

The findings show that aboriginal people in Canada have made slight gains between 2006 and 2011, but significant gaps remain between the aboriginal and the non-aboriginal populations–especially for First Nations living on reserve.

Gaps between First Nations actually increased in terms of employment rate, reliance on government transfers, post-secondary completion rates, and crowded housing conditions. On the positive side, Inuit unemployment declined to 19.5% and the average income gap between Metis and the non-aboriginal populations was reduced by 6.7%, it said.

  Not on Par

“Despite some positive change, aboriginal people in Canada are currently not on track to achieving parity with non-aboriginal Canadians. The only way forward is through economic, business, education, employment and community development led by strong governance, political will and sufficient targeted financial investments in these areas.

“Further investments are needed to increase aboriginal employment by creating meaningful jobs for our people. We cannot grow our economy and employ aboriginal people if large companies are hiring foreign workers and not local, skilled aboriginal people. The aboriginal population is young and growing and is, and will continue to be, a pool of willing and able employees for businesses.

“Second, we must acknowledge that funding for aboriginal education, and First Nation education in particular, is far from adequate. Closing the education gap between aboriginal and mainstream Canadians should be a top priority and steps must be taken by the federal government to set aside funding–as promised–to improve the education outcomes of aboriginal youth.

“And finally, we must remember that the first relationship between aboriginal people and Canada was a business relationship–not a dependency relationship. Investments in economic development should not be viewed as discretionary but rather fundamental to driving both aboriginal and regional economies.

“Our goal is to ensure that our young people will have a modern education so they can be employed and enjoy the same standard of living that the rest of Canadians take for granted. Only then will aboriginal people be in the same position as other Canadians to contribute to and benefit from one of the world’s wealthiest economies,” NAEDB concluded.