A first of its kind study looking at the impact of the Atlantic Indigenous economy is painting a picture of the impact Indigenous communities have on the overall economy in Atlantic Canada.
“We took all the communities in this area and we looked at band spending, we looked at household spending, communities within the bands, we did a survey of businesses and then we looked at organizations,” Tom McGuire, an economist with Group ATN Consulting said.
The report found that Indigenous bands in the Atlantic provinces have an annual impact of $1.1 billion dollars on the Canadian economy and that the Indigenous economy creates the equivalent of 16,700 jobs.
The study also found while the country’s overall population is declining, the Indigenous community is the youngest and the fastest growing.
“It’s a defining time for Atlantic Canada Indigenous communities and we’re proud about our contribution to the economy, because we do believe in the future of Canada and our communities and our young people,” said John G. Paul, co-chair of the study.
The country’s minister of Indigenous and northern affairs says the landmark study highlights how much First Nations contribute to the Atlantic Canadian economy.
“The economic impact of First Nations communities is something that we don’t talk about very much,” said Minister Carolyn Bennett.
With more than a billion dollars in direct spending, the Indigenous economy is on par with major projects currently taking place in the region, like the Irving Shipbuilding project.
“This is a huge opportunity that’s ongoing, not after a project stops. This is a project with the fastest growing part of the population. This is something that can be tapped into in a really good way,” Bennett said.
It’s hoped the findings in Wednesday’s report will help inform community members and government allowing them to work better together to support development and business growth among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“This is about reconciliation,” Bennett said. “This is about really positive relationships between communities and their neighbouring communities, and non-Indigenous communities.”