Outlook: Canada’s emerging Indigenous economy is gaining momentum

Now more than ever, with the national debt heading towards $400 billion, the emerging narrative of the $100 billion annual Indigenous economic target is coming into sharp focus.

It is time to move away from the archaic thinking of seeing Canada’s Indigenous peoples as a cost to the fiscal system and start seeing the potential of modern constructive generative Indigenous economies.

There are more than 630 nations across this country, 203 of them in British Columbia, and each is collectively generating increasing levels of Indigenous economic activity. It is time to establish the business case for the design of the $100 billion Indigenous economic target while framed within a post-COVID economic recovery response.

This past year saw the increasing visibility of Indigenous economic presence as well as the significant elevating of the national Indigenous $1 billion economic narrative.

The high conflict standoff between the Wet’suwet’en people and Coastal GasLink caused an immediate and momentous Indigenous domino-like effect response in the disruption of the transportation supply chain across the country. This was an uprising of such magnitude it resembled the strength of response of the Idle No More movement of 2012. 

As the pandemic slowed this conflict, economic racism reared its ugly head during the establishment of the Mi’kmaq lobster fishery. The concept of an Indigenous-rights-based fishery has not fully registered within the clunky heads of the mainstream Nova Scotia fishing industry, accustomed as it is to hundreds of years of Indigenous economic exclusion. 

In probably the greatest economic power play this country has never seen, the Mi’kmaq economic response to the racism, violence, destruction and the systemic exclusion from the economic table spawned the Clearwater Seafoods $1 billion deal. As the largest investment within the seafood industry by any Canadian Indigenous group, this deal is referred to as a “generational acquisition” for the Indigenous nations because it will create the ability to generate wealth for generations. This is Indigenomics.

The year also the saw the establishment of the 5% federal Indigenous procurement target within the federal mandate that establishes the potential to generate billions of dollars of contracting to Indigenous businesses. Economic leadership initiatives like this will significantly contribute to the achievement of the $100 billion Indigenous economic annual target. Further elevating the Indigenous economic narrative and framed within the Indigenomics $1 billion virtual tour of 10 nations doing billion-dollar-level deals at the Indigenomics Institute’s annual design forum, the First Nations Finance Authority announced the achievement of $1 billion deployed to Indigenous businesses.

With a country peering into a new reality of the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), what comes with this is the expression of the Indigenous right to an economy, the right to self-determination and the right to establish Indigenous institutions.

The emerging strength of the Indigenous economy must be central within the economic response of 2021.  Facing the potential of UNDRIP’s implementation comes with the opportunity to build the economic and financial institutions for the architecture of the $100 billion Indigenous economies for collective national success. We are a powerful people. Let’s have the courage to do this together. Who wants to play Indigenomics? •

Carol Anne Hilton is CEO and founder of the Indigenomics Institute.