A local Aboriginal Financial Institution has received funding that will allow them to support local Indigenous projects and businesses.
At an announcement made at Seven Generations Education Institute's Fort Frances campus on Friday, Jan. 10, Kenora-Rainy River MPP, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, revelaed nearly $153,000 in funding for the Rainy Lake Tribal Area Business and Financial Services Corporation.
The funding is part of an $8.2-million Indigenous Economic Development Fund (IEFD) that was announced last November.
The Rainy Lake Tribal Area Business and Financial Services Corporation is a not-for-profit organization “that provides access to . . . member First Nations with financing for Aboriginal owned businesses for start-up or expansion,” according to their website.
“The support you offer those communities is appreciated by the fact that some chiefs took time out of their busy schedule today and why I'm here, really,” Rickford told the audience at the announcement, which was made up of corporation members and supporters.
“The funding specifically finances indigenous entrepreneurs, businesses, communities and organizations that are seeking new ways to promote economic development.”
Rickford noted that as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, he's been making announcements tied to the overall IEFD since its initial announcement last year, and mentioned he was pleased to see so many were for organizations in our part of the province.
“I'm proud to report that a number of them have come to organizations out here in northwestern Ontario,” he said.
“I'd like to think that's because of two things: we've built great relationships with local indigenous communities and their organizations, and we continue to showcase that down in Queen's Park and bring NWO closer to the epicentre of decision making.”
The Minister made mention of a conversation he had previously with Brian Perrault, Couchiching First Nation Chief and the Secretary/Treasurer for the Rainy Lake Tribal Area Business and Financial Services Corporation, to highlight what he said was the potential that Indigenous-owned and led businesses had in the region.
“Brian, we just had a discussion, literally, about the fact [Couchiching First Nation] is the only recipient as it stands now, for the sale of cannabis,” he said.
“That people are going to be looking to you, your leadership and your community as how this is done here in Northwestern Ontario and hopefully to showcase for the region.”
“We've got a tremendous amount of opportunities, and whether it's Seven Gens or the communities that we're working with, Rainy River First Nations, all across this district, they see great opportunities in so many different kinds of businesses, and we want to be there to support them,” Rickford added.
He also noted he was hopeful that the continued financial support for Indigenous-led projects would be able to help them to make better and more successful bids for funding through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC).
“It's also important to point out, just in terms of a finishing comment, many times the work that you do actually leads to the project,” he said.
“So this is money that we've been able to provide municipalities to put them in a better position to have capacity around business and economic decision making and it's my hope and my intention that many of the first nation communities across the region can begin to be successful recipients into the NOHFC's economic development portfolio, since they are grossly underrepresented and I think it's announcements like today that are going to lay the foundation for that.”
Chief Perrault also addressed the crowd, thanking Rickford for his support and continued advocacy for the region in Queen's Park.
“I just also want to say that we here in this tribal area, we try and work closely together on a number of things,” Perrault said.
"Rainy Lake Tribal Area Business and Financial Services Corporation are one such entity that we all support and that benefits businesses, small businesses in the area, and the goal is always to have more prosperous economic ventures and I want to also say that there's a whole number of other things that we do work together in this part of Anishinaabe Nation of Treaty #3.
“I'm glad that we have someone in Queen's Park who is able to bring our message from this part of Ontario, in northwestern Ontario, which really is Treaty #3 territory, to Queen's Park to make sure we're not forgotten out here, that Thunder Bay is not northern Ontario,” Perrault continued, eliciting applause from the audience and the Minister himself.
Perrault noted that the funding will be important for covering various costs that he said the corporation has “been a little short on funding.”
“It's going to help us with capacity development, of course, and some of the administration functions that we have for our corporation, our financial corporation,” Perrault explained.
“We're really encouraged by it, and the help was needed, so I'm glad we did get the help, and we'll make good use of that funding for sure. It's going to help us with the other part of it: supporting small businesses and families and other First Nation projects that might be going on, so all of that, the money will be well used.”