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Supporting Indigenous prosperity

In his final speech before retiring from the Bank of Canada, Deputy Governor Lawrence Schembri talks about the Bank’s contribution to advancing economic inclusion and opportunity for Indigenous peoples.

Watch Deputy Governor Schembri speak to the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association. Read the full speech.

Economic reconciliation is a priority for us

The Bank has a role in advancing economic reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. We’re looking at ways to help Indigenous peoples share in economic prosperity more than they have in the past.

We’ve been listening to our Indigenous partners and learning about the Indigenous economy’s:

  • history
  • potential
  • current challenges and opportunities

Over the next two years, we’ll continue to reach out and listen to a wide range of Indigenous groups to define what economic reconciliation means for us and for our work. By taking time to do this right, we hope to take a meaningful step toward building trust and strengthening our relationship with Indigenous peoples.

If we are going to advance economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, we need a plan that will focus our efforts and guide our actions.”

The Indigenous economy has a lot of potential…

Before contact with colonizers, Indigenous peoples had thriving economies and communities.

Everyone now has a responsibility to help Indigenous peoples restore that prosperity. The resulting benefits would be substantial for Indigenous communities—and for all of Canada.

Several recent trends speak to the enormous untapped potential of the Indigenous economy:

  • The Indigenous population in Canada is young and growing fast.
  • The number of employed Indigenous people grew by almost 45% between 2006 and 2016.
  • The percentage of First Nations, Métis and Inuit with secondary school education or higher has been growing faster than that of non-Indigenous people.
  • The number of Indigenous entrepreneurs is rising, and Indigenous businesses are performing well.

…but it faces key barriers

Nevertheless, barriers to accessing credit and financing have limited the creation of new businesses and job opportunities in Indigenous communities. Our research has also found that remoteness and poor infrastructure have restricted Indigenous access to:

  • cash
  • banks
  • financial services more broadly

These and other obstacles have raised the cost of living and led to underinvestment in Indigenous communities. Fortunately, a range of First Nations institutions are working to reduce such barriers. But access to finance is still a big issue, largely because of huge investment gaps in infrastructure and housing.

This lack of access results in less access to borrowing rates that are determined by the market. And that makes it harder for our monetary policy actions to reach Indigenous communities.

And it’s hard to measure the size and performance of the Indigenous economy because data aren’t:

  • available regularly
  • comparable across communities or with non-Indigenous communities

Inadequate information impairs financial management and decision making.”

Our commitment

We’re working with others to help fill gaps in Indigenous financial inclusion and in information about the Indigenous economy. And we’re committed to defining how the Bank can contribute to economic reconciliation.

This journey will start with our current Indigenous friends and partners, but we’ll be finding ways to engage and collaborate with others too. It’s going to take time to craft the right plan, but we’re committed to doing our part to restore prosperity to Indigenous communities.

By working together, I am convinced that we can, over time, make a significant and positive contribution to reconciliation and improve the welfare of Indigenous communities in this country.”

to join the conversation or schedule a meeting.

In addition to our ongoing conversations with Indigenous partners, the Bank chairs the Central Bank Network for Indigenous Inclusion (2022–23) and consults with its Indigenous Advisory Circle on how Indigenous peoples in Canada might be represented on future bank notes.

We also work with Indspire to manage a scholarship application process and job placements for Indigenous students.

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