Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (40th anniversary)

May 28, 2024

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Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that we gather on land that is the traditional territory of many nations. This includes the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. This land is also now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

There are so many Indigenous peoples here with us today who have inspired us with their actions and stories. When I recognize the full history of this country, I also recognize the work you are doing on behalf of Indigenous communities across the country.

I am grateful to all of you for your contributions.

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. Congratulations to everyone celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

So much work has been done in the last four decades to advance Indigenous prosperity.

This organization was built on the premise of closing the gap between corporate Canada and Indigenous peoples.

You have built bridges to promote understanding and respect. You have encouraged Indigenous economic success and collaboration. You have inspired corporate Canada to invest in Indigenous entrepreneurship and ideas.

This is what the CCAB does, and it’s why I’m so pleased to be here with you to celebrate. I’m also here to thank you for your continued work towards reconciliation.

There are many different paths of reconciliation to follow. So many of you here today, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have helped to walk the path. When we do so together, we contribute to true reconciliation and a future where Indigenous peoples are full participants in the Canadian economy.

This is the vision of those who formed CCAB in 1984. It is wonderful to see that our collective commitment to economic reconciliation is helping to build a stronger country.

Your actions are in line with the National Indigenous Economic Strategy, which was developed by Indigenous peoples, and outlines four pathways—lands, people, infrastructure and finance. You have shown us what reconciliation in action looks like.

As we look to the future, it is imperative that Indigenous peoples engage in the economy in a way that reflects their identity, culture, language and values.

Indigenous economic success impacts everyone across the country. It impacts the quality of life in Indigenous communities, leading to better overall well-being for Indigenous peoples. It also improves the economic outlook for the entire country.

Consider that Indigenous peoples are the fastest-growing demographic in Canada. Consider, as well, that the number of Indigenous businesses is rising and that these businesses are contributing a significantly greater percentage to Canada’s GDP.

There is so much opportunity for mutually beneficial growth, and this can be done through a focus on strategic partnerships.

Developing equal partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is vital to our future. There are many examples of this type of relationship. Each one is a model that can inspire others, and each one is an example of economic reconciliation.  

There is another aspect of economic reconciliation that I wanted to highlight today: awareness.

It’s important to create awareness of existing Indigenous contributions, the potential that lies within Indigenous communities, and the unique skills and talents of Indigenous entrepreneurs. This is an essential part of economic reconciliation as it inspires everyone to dream big and to strive for excellence.

Through education and research, the CCAB has played a central role in raising awareness over the years. It connects Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples with each other, to succeed together and to form lasting and interconnected relationships.

The future is bright for Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs, but there are still many challenges to address. Among them is ensuring access to technology for Indigenous communities, particularly in remote areas. Another is encouraging corporations and governments to procure goods and services from Indigenous businesses.

To face these challenges, and others, we need to involve Indigenous peoples in the decision-making process. We need Indigenous representation at all levels in our organizations and on corporate boards. We need to create workplace cultures that value Indigenous peoples’ history and knowledge.  

Whatever we do should reflect a long-term plan that leads to Indigenous economic success. Thanks to the determination and insights of Indigenous economic leaders, we have a path forward.

Together, we can create an environment in which Indigenous prosperity, economic equality and self-determination can thrive.

As you look to the future, I hope you take pride in what you have accomplished.

I am grateful for your work.

Thank you.