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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce brings together a vast network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing 200,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions. This network represents diverse viewpoints, and the Canadian Chamber blog provides a platform to share ideas with the business community and the federal government. The opinions expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. 

This piece is written by Brenda LaRose, Board Diversity Practice Lead on the Canadian Chamber Board of Directors and Partner at Leaders International Executive Search.

With racism in the global spotlight these past weeks, it has highlighted that changes are still necessary in Canada to strengthen the social fabric of our country.  The Indigenous community has been on this land for thousands of years, but systemic racism is still happening in spite of the Supreme Court recognizing in more than 250 decisions since the 1970s that Indigenous Peoples have inalienable rights in how Canada develops and grows its potential.

Canada’s business sector has a major role and responsibility to play in building true, cooperative and respectful relationships with Indigenous Peoples. These relationships should be built to not only ensure financial success but also to achieve certainty in current or future initiatives. Many businesses in Canada are already committed and are working on this.  Some businesses have led the way and been successful at breaking down the barriers to create true partnerships to their long-term benefit. Yet, systemic racism is still well entrenched in our society and that prevents us from moving forward in a bold new direction Clearly, there is much more work to do to on diversity and the fair representation of Indigenous Peoples and other racialized Canadians.

Last year Indigenous businesses contributed more than $34 billion to the Canadian economy and there is potential for much more if the systemic barriers are removed. There are many highly successful Indigenous businesses in this country. These Indigenous corporations currently operate on budgets of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, every year and whose Presidents, CEOs and senior managers have clearly demonstrated a strong business acumen. We must invite more of these individuals to sit on corporate boards and work with other corporations to broaden their reach into Indigenous communities. There are many qualified candidates and the business community can help fight discrimination through board appointments.

This broadening of diversity at the board and senior management levels will also demonstrate that corporate culture is opening to all communities in Canada and that there is potential for growing and moving up on the corporate ladder.  This will generate huge benefits for companies that see the writing on the wall and open themselves up to the full human potential of Canada.

The Canadian government has started to recognize the importance of supporting and investing in Indigenous business. The National Aboriginal Capital Corporation Association (NACCA) has recently received over $300M to support existing and new Indigenous businesses across Canada. This major cash injection will allow a whole new range of businesses to start developing one of the major resources in Canada, the Indigenous human potential.  As Canada’s fastest growing population, we are in a position to not only become invaluable assets for the entire range of corporations in Canada but help build the bottom line and the access to a growing market. Furthermore, the social capital that will be created will, in many ways, far outstrip the strict financial bottom line.

Click here to access resources about Indigenous communities, culture histories, reconciliation and justice in Canada.

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