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Aboriginal Communities On the Cusp of Unprecedented Economic Growth: BMO Panel

Jun 21 2013 12:00AM

Marketwire

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TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 06/21/13 -- Canada's workforce is evolving rapidly and faces a fundamental shift in how it will meet future labour needs as Canada's aging population continues to retire from the labour pool, according to experts from BMO's inaugural Aboriginal Day panel. Furthermore, the number of new entrepreneurs is at a record high and funding is increasingly coming from and staying on reserves. Over the next 10 years, Canada will see unprecedented progress and growth from its Aboriginal communities.

To mark National Aboriginal Day on June 21, panelists from BMO and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) discussed the defining opportunities and challenges Aboriginal Peoples and Canadians as a whole are likely to experience over the next decade.

Economic Development

There has been a transformation in how funding is provided to Aboriginal communities - according to a recent CCAB report - with banks now providing Economic Development Corporations (EDCs) with 19 per cent of the funding needed to run local businesses. These business development arms of First Nations, Metis or Inuit governments are thriving, in part to this diversification in access to funding.

"Building strong relationships between Aboriginal communities, governments and businesses is the vital first step to ensuring long-lasting prosperity amongst stakeholders from across the country. We are seeing a clear return on investment with the EDCs. Where more money used to come from governments or band funds, it is now being generated by Aboriginal businesses," said JP Gladu, President and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. "In addition, through various changes in policy and the success of these businesses, Aboriginal Peoples have more latitude than ever in deciding how and where they spend their revenues."

Mr. Gladu noted that Western provinces, as they continue to see notable economic growth, are poised to make the most of the opportunities to hire Aboriginal Peoples, with Ontario catching up over time.

Funding Infrastructure

Stephen Fay, Head, Aboriginal Banking, BMO Financial Group, noted that there have been a number of game changers in the last two decades, beginning with the on-reserve housing loan program and, in 2011, the return of nearly $1 billion to reserves in owed land claims.

Now, with the help of the First Nations Finance Authority, First Nations governments are on a more equal playing field with all levels of government in terms of access to borrowed funds, and can boost future growth by investing in services and infrastructure.

"As a result of these new realities, Aboriginal people have access to unprecedented financial resources. We have seen tremendous progress in just the last 10 years," Mr. Fay said. "These communities have benefited through new and improved infrastructure - including gymnasiums and schools - and the financing of infrastructure projects like sewers and water treatment facilities. Such projects have improved the lives of the people who live in these communities, both through the jobs they created and the services that were built."

Reaching Untapped Talent

According to James McKay, Diversity Recruiter, Aboriginal Peoples, BMO Financial Group, companies on and off reserves should continue to dedicate time to hiring, developing and retaining Aboriginal employees as Canada faces a labour shortage from an aging workforce. According to Statistics Canada, the Aboriginal population is projected to grow at double the pace of non-Aboriginals between now and 2031.

"As Canada's population continues to age, there will be a myriad of opportunities for Aboriginals to fill the void," said Mr. McKay. "Raising the bar on Aboriginal education and training is the right thing to do; it helps our students, it helps the communities they come from and return to, and frankly, it helps the businesses that hire them.

"One area we are focusing on in particular is financial literacy," continued Mr. McKay. "Whether this is through workshops on reserves or by hiring them to work at BMO, encouraging an understanding of finance is crucial to self-sustaining growth. The goal in many cases is to have them use the tools we give them and return to the reserve, applying the knowledge to start a business, contribute by sitting on a board at an EDC, or educate others in the community."

About BMO and the Aboriginal Community

In 2012, BMO celebrated twenty years of working with Aboriginal peoples in their communities. BMO's Aboriginal Banking Unit has 12 on-reserve branches and a more than $2 billion business relationship with Aboriginal customers. With a dedicated experienced team, BMO is able to help Aboriginal customers with products and services to meet their personal banking needs, provide financial advice to on-reserve businesses, and partner with communities on their economic development initiatives and provide customized trust and investment management solutions.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $555 billion as at April 30, 2013, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

About CCAB

CCAB is committed to the full participation of Aboriginal people in Canada's economy. A national non-profit organization, CCAB offers knowledge, resources and programs to both mainstream and Aboriginal owned companies that foster economic opportunities for Aboriginal people and business across Canada.



Contacts:
News Contacts:
Alexis Brown, Toronto
(416) 867-3996
alexis.brown@bmo.com

Russell Baker, Toronto
(416) 867-3996
russell.baker@bmo.com

Valerie Doucet, Montreal
(514) 877-8224
valerie.doucet@bmo.com

Laurie Grant, Vancouver
(604) 665-7596
laurie.grant@bmo.com

Internet: www.bmo.com
Twitter: @BMOMedia





Source: Marketwire