Authors: Lana Garcelon, Marla Orenstein, Colleen Collins and Sarah Pittman

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Across Canada, many Indigenous groups are seeking economic self-sufficiency as a catalyst for self-reliance and prosperity, as well as to reduce poverty and unemployment.(1)

Attaining economic self-sufficiency is not a simple task. It requires concerted actions by Indigenous groups, government and non-government organizations – as well as industry partners – across a number of sectors. It requires a supportive legal and regulatory environment. It needs to build on strong community governance and administration, as well as autonomy for local decision-making. There needs to be sufficient economic infrastructure, including a useable land base and access to capital.(2,3) And it also requires that communities have economic development capacity, businesses have resources to succeed, and individuals have opportunities to access employment.

Both nationally and provincially, a wide range of programs, initiatives and policies exist to support the conditions for a flourishing Indigenous economy.

The purpose of this compendium is to identify programs and policies specifically geared toward Indigenous economic development in the four western Canadian provinces. This information may be useful to organizations in different ways:

• It will help governments to visualize what they offer in comparison to their western and national counterparts

• It will help Indigenous communities and individuals to identify and access appropriate programming and funding sources

• It will help not-for-profit organizations to understand their position in contributing to Indigenous economic development in the context of other initiatives.

• It will help companies consider how partnership opportunities can fill gaps and support economic development.

The programs and policies listed in this compendium have been grouped into eight categories as described below. In reality, however, the lines between categories are not clear-cut, and programs or institutions may offer services across a number of different areas.

The eight categories that are used in this compendium are:

A. Resources to help communities with economic development capacity

These programs provide funding or knowledge opportunities directly to community governments or community-based organizations to enhance their capacity to stimulate economic development in a particular community. This work sets the stage for successful community ventures.

B. Resources to help Aboriginal businesses to succeed

These programs provide supports directly to Indigenous business owners – such as helping identify markets, legal requirements, operational resources and financing opportunities.

C. Resources to help individuals access employment opportunities

These programs help connect employers with Indigenous job-seekers, or provide training to help Indigenous individuals with specific employment skills.

D. Industry organizations

Industry organizations are private, member-based organizations that advance the interests of Indigenous businesses within a specific industry such as fishing, mining, forestry or tourism.

E. Resources that provide advice to government

These organizations operate under a mandate to provide strategic advice to government about Indigenous economic development.

F. Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs)

AFIs are banks that are tailored to meet the needs of Indigenous businesses. They provide financing, and also often provide financial and management consulting, business start-up and aftercare services.

G. Government funding for Funders

In all provinces, there are far more programs that are administered and delivered through nongovernment organizations (public, private or not-for-profit) than administered directly by the government. However, even for those programs offered through NGOs, the government is often the ultimate funder. This section identifies the sources through which these funds flow.

H. Government policies

This section identifies government policies at the national or provincial (for the four western provinces) level that set out specific measures or approaches intended to directly enhance Indigenous economic development.

The compendium at the back of the document lists all programs included in the summaries A through H, including links to program websites.

While this document can provide information on the landscape of programs and policies in existence, there are two key questions that are beyond the scope of this research. The first is the evaluation of the success or effectiveness of any given program. The second is whether these programs—taken together—are sufficient to narrow economic gaps for Indigenous groups.

Note on Methods

The programs and policies listed in this compendium are ones that are intended to directly address economic gaps among Indigenous groups in western Canada.

We applied specific criteria to help us identify appropriate programs and policies to include:

• We included programs and policies from the four western provinces (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and ones at the national / federal level that would apply to Indigenous groups in those four provinces. We did not include programs in other provinces.

• We included programs established, funded or administered by any source: government, non-governmental organizations, private enterprise or lending institutions.

• We included only those programs that were available for multiple Indigenous groups. In other words, we did not include band- or tribal-level programs that were only intended for one specific community, or that had been created by one specific community. This choice was made both to limit the number of programs included, and also due to the difficulty of finding band-level information.

• We included only those programs and policies that were in some way tailored specifically for Indigenous groups. For example, we did not include employment or business supports that could be accessed by anyone—Indigenous or not—unless it had a component that would specifically encourage or support Indigenous participation.

• We included only programs and policies intended to directly affect economic conditions. We did not include programs and policies intended to affect upstream determinants of economic success. For example, this compendium does not include broad educational policy or programs, even though education ultimately affects socio-economic outcomes. Similarly, we did not include programs designed to develop governance capacity.

Information on the programs and policies was collected primarily via online research from sources that included:

• Provincial and federal government websites and published information

• Websites created by NGOs, banks, Indigenous networks and other organizations to describe their own work

• Lists of links and resources for Indigenous groups

In addition to online research, we contacted many companies, organizations and government offices directly to obtain supplementary information.

We recognize that the compendium may not be completely exhaustive; some contacts were unreachable, some websites had out-dated information, and it is always possible that we may have missed some initiatives.


1 Clarke, Allan. 2018. Build the Indigenous economy to address poverty. Policy Options, September 19, 2018.

2 Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. 2013. Creating the conditions for economic success on reserve lands: A report on the experiences of 25 First Nation communities.

3 The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board. 2013. Addressing the Barriers to Economic Development on Reserve.