CEO and President of CCAB JP Gladu
“When Natives and european settlers partnered together to harvest the vast resources of Canada partnerships were based on free trade and The Seven Grandfather Teachings. The first 200 years was one of great co-operation and success, unfortunately the next 300 were full of deteriorating relationships leaving Natives relegated as second class citizens. Today history is not repeating itself, but has come full circle,” Elder Duke Redbird (Ojibwe) states. On Friday June 26, 2015 the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) announced their research findings on Aboriginal Economic Development Corporations (EDCs), titled the Community and Commerce Report.
CEO and President, JP Gladu (Anishnabe) says that “the CCAB is doing Aboriginal research, for Aboriginal people, by Aboriginal people.” Their research covers what an EDCs goals are, the challenges they face and how they can overcome these challenges. An EDC is a community owned Aboriginal corporation whose goal is to create a substantial revenue stream so that the community can reduce or eliminate government reliance. This revenue can be used to solve community problems like health and social issues, housing, unemployment and education. It’s the Chief and Council that decide how it is spent.
Major impacts an EDC has on communities are building a sustainable economy with jobs and training opportunities, which trickle down to funding for sports teams, facilities, health services, community centres and so on. Intangible impacts include hope goodwill and pride. EDC’s are mostly involved in sectors like tourism, property management and energy with some involved in construction, communication, finance, mining, transportation and forestry.
Community engagement and capacity building are two main challenges EDC’s face. Researcher Max Skudra says, “we find that community engagement to be fundamental to successful progress of these companies.” An EDC will usually have a Chief and Council representative sit on its board, as well as a community member. If the community isn’t properly engaged or educated about the company any kind of group can prevent a project from going forward. There needs be a balance of transparent engagement with the community while not having them be involved in day to day business. Skudra also explains, “capacity building for high level skill development for executives and hard skill development on an operational level are needed to develop long term and stable companies that can benefit the people on the ground.”
To strengthen business, two-thirds of EDC’s form partnerships to transfer skills, knowledge and contacts which in turn create more jobs and help them access more revenue. The CCAB found that to support flourishing EDC’s the government must provide stable long term funding, support training and job placement initiatives and recognize the inherent value in the EDC model while addressing the perceived risk of working with Aboriginal businesses and creating incentives for Non-Aboriginal companies to partner with EDC’s.
The CCAB also announced its launch of the Aboriginal Procurement Program which supports Indigenous businesses by assisting them to sell products and services to the government and secure future contracts and clients. “Today there is a more desire throughout Canada to develop a more equitable partnership with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit economy and enterprises,” says Redbird, “the opportunities to seize are many fold, the challenges are exciting and the possibilities are only limited by the scope of our own imaginations.”