'Economic reconciliation' will help economy, says Indigenous business council

There are 43,000 Indigenous businesses contributing to the Canadian economy and some of the biggest are in Saskatchewan, says the president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business calls on Canadian businesses to take action

J.P. Gladu, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, says 'economic reconciliation' is about growing the economy 'so that we're managing wealth, rather than managing the poverty that we have been managing for a very long time.'

There are 43,000 Indigenous businesses contributing to the Canadian economy and some of the biggest are in Saskatchewan, says Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business president and CEO J.P. Gladu.

"These businesses are of every shape and size," Gladu told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

"Some are Mom and Dad sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out how they're going to grow or start their business, all the way to the multimillion-dollar corporations."

The business council is asking Canadian businesses to take action on what it calls "economic reconciliation," an idea Gladu said stems from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

"That's about ensuring that our communities have access to all the business tools and opportunities to grow an economy so that we're managing wealth, rather than managing the poverty that we have been managing for a very long time," Gladu said.

The council recently kicked off a new initiative called "Supply Change," with the goal of growing Indigenous business in Canada.

With over half of our population now living in urban centres, there's a strong Indigenous business presence that can be tapped into.- J.P. Gladu, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

It would like to see more Indigenous businesses creating partnerships and playing a role in supply chains.

He commends the resource sector for working with Indigenous businesses, pointing to "strong legal precedents in this country where if you don't build those relationships, projects will suffer."

But he said more could be done in urban centres.

"With over half of our population now living in urban centres, there's a strong Indigenous business presence that can be tapped into."

The CCAB also wants the federal government to set targets around procuring from Indigenous businesses. Gladu said the federal government currently spends between $60-$100 million a year with Indigenous businesses, but the council would like to see more.

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern

Ashleigh Mattern is a web writer and reporter with CBC Saskatoon, and an associate producer with Saskatoon Morning. She has been working as a journalist since 2007 and joined CBC in 2017. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca

With files from Saskatoon Morning