President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB)
At the end of May, we learned that Nish-Dish, a popular Toronto restaurant serving Anishinaabe cuisine, was closing for good. This is just one of the many Indigenous-owned businesses across Canada that are experiencing the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), we understand from many of our members that there’s an extremely high number of Indigenous businesses that have been negatively affected by COVID-19. Many have had to temporarily shut down their offices, while others have had to close permanently.
At CCAB, we understand the impact of the Indigenous economy on Indigenous communities. Just like for all Canadians, when businesses are thriving, communities thrive. The difference is that Indigenous communities have been historically under-served, under-resourced, and systemically kept out of the Canadian economy, so they have further to go to reach the same levels of well-being and wealth as non-Indigenous communities.
To mitigate some of the negative effects of the pandemic on businesses, the federal government set up different sources of relief and has provided much-needed funding — taking considerable effort to stay ahead of the country’s needs. While the policy response has been greatly appreciated across the nation, in many programs there was a delay in closing the gap for Indigenous business support, which has led to an increased negative impact. When devising the programs that will aid all Canadian businesses, Indigenous issues need to be top of mind for governments and the public alike.
We encourage corporate Canada to look at our growing list of Certified Aboriginal Businesses that are providing PPE and to consider procuring from them.
Many of CCAB’s members have retooled or restructured to help stimulate the economy and to be able to aid the country’s most vulnerable during this public health and economic crisis. Some Indigenous businesses are producing vital personal protective equipment (PPE) to help slow the spread of the virus. While the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments are awarding contracts to Indigenous businesses for PPE, we know that increasingly, there’s demand for both medical- and non-medical grade PPE in everyday life. We encourage corporate Canada to look at our growing list of Certified Aboriginal Businesses that are providing PPE and to consider procuring from them. Take the money you were planning to spend anyway and spend it where it’s going to have a greater impact — on Indigenous businesses.
In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day, CCAB acknowledges how important it is to build a new economy based on mutual respect and shared prosperity. We continue to collaborate with communities, organizations, and governments to identify and narrow the gaps and to promote and enhance the strength and capacity of Indigenous businesses. Efforts to increase procurement opportunities and provide access to shovel-ready projects for Indigenous businesses will prove mutually beneficial for businesses and governments. Supporting Indigenous businesses and our members through the recovery phase is a priority.