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Speaking Notes 3rd Annual Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Conference and Tradeshow

Notes for an address by Mark Strahl, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Conference
Gatineau, Quebec
November 5, 2013
Check against delivery

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I’m delighted to be here today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation, and to be joined by so many outstanding speakers such as Ken Coates, Boris Rassin and Erin Meehan. These business people are leaders in their respective fields and I’m certain you will be inspired by every one of them throughout the conference.

I want to begin by congratulating the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business for hosting this 3rd Annual Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Conference and Tradeshow. Conferences like this one help build and strengthen partnerships and business networks and prepare for future opportunities.

Our government is proud to support this annual event, which provides Aboriginal businesses with opportunities to exchange ideas and best practices with entrepreneurs from across the country, corporate Canada and government officials. This is an ideal forum for you to explore initiatives and opportunities available across Canada.

I would also like to welcome the many community college students and educators who are watching us through live streaming. Thanks to the Association of Canadian Community Colleges’ initiative, they can gain insights into real economic development opportunities and learn from experts and key stakeholders while connecting with Aboriginal business leaders and corporate Canada.

Approximately $650 billion is expected to be invested in over 600 major economic projects across Canada over the next 10 years. Many of these investments are located in or near First Nation communities, creating large-scale economic benefits and job opportunities for Aboriginal Canadians. Our government is committed to enabling Aboriginal people to seize these opportunities and participate fully in a strong Canadian economy.

The theme for this year’s conference — Accelerating Change Through Business Partnerships — emphasizes that through partnerships and targeted investments in community infrastructure, education and training, and business development, we can continue to create and support the conditions for young Aboriginal people to find and keep jobs in the Canadian economy.

Our Government’s top priority is to create jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity; that’s why we are pleased to have concluded an agreement in principle on a Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the European Union that will be beneficial for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in every region of the country.

Minister Valcourt has been clear, since his appointment, as the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development he has made it a priority to travel the country, visiting First Nation, Métis, northern and Inuit groups in their communities, in order to meet with Aboriginal people to hear firsthand about the issues that matter to them.

And he has heard that they are looking forward to working with willing partners to improve the well-being and quality of life of Aboriginal people in Canada.

Jobs and economic growth are fundamental to the quality of life of Aboriginal people and to Canada’s long-term prosperity. And nowhere are the opportunities greater than in the natural resource sector.

Through initiatives like the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development, and the Strategic Partnership Initiative (SPI) our Government also continues to focus on strategic partnership building between Aboriginal groups, the private sector, provincial and territorial governments to increase economic development opportunities. Our Government continues to work with First Nations to modernize lands management and regulatory regimes on Aboriginal lands in both the North and south of 60, to enable First Nations, Métis and Inuit to maximize the value of their lands and incrementally dismantle the outdated economic barriers presented by the Indian Act. Our Government has also focused on supporting Aboriginal entrepreneurs through programs like the Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP), which provides financial assistance and business information and services to majority-owned Aboriginal entrepreneurs for a range of activities, including business start-ups, acquisitions, expansions and marketing. And these are just a few examples of specific government initiatives.

Aboriginal youth represent the fastest growing demographic in Canada. And our Government is taking concrete steps to create the conditions for young Aboriginal people to find and keep meaningful jobs. We are working to ensure new labour force entrants are equipped with the education and training they need to seize employment opportunities. We are providing more support for Aboriginal consultations on resource development and we are aligning the on-reserve Income Assistance Program with provincial systems to better support much needed skills training.

Providing First Nation youth with access to a wider, more personalized range of training, education and career counseling programs that will help them get jobs continues to be a priority of this government. And the recent 2013 Speech from the Throne reaffirmed our commitment to ensure that the jobs and opportunities brought forward by Canada’s natural wealth are available to all Canadians including the new generations of Aboriginal people who must have every opportunity to benefit.

Our focus will be on increasing training services for First Nation youth through a new First Nations Job Fund. Through this fund, Income Assistance recipients will have access to employment services such as skills assessments, personalized training and job coaching over the coming four years.

Canada is home to a wealth of resources, which can provide a unique economic opportunity not just for First Nations but for all Canadians. Through the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development, the Government of Canada is helping Aboriginal businesses partner in some of the most important economic development and energy projects in the country. Canada’s mining, oil and gas, and forestry sectors are already the biggest employers of Aboriginal people in the country and it is a priority of this Government to make sure Aboriginal people in Canada can continue to meet this demand. This includes Inuit, First Nations, territorial governments, and industry to ensure that Northerners are also well-trained to take their full place in this new economy.

Fitting with the theme of this conference, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s work with Aboriginal Financial Institutions has created partnerships that are reaping real financial benefits for Aboriginal businesses. Since 2005, the department’s $102 million in capital contributions have leveraged $263 million from other partners. This, in turn, has supported over 6,700 Aboriginal businesses.

We believe that Aboriginal participation in the economy is the best route to healthier, more self-sufficient Aboriginal communities.

The key to success in every one of the areas I have talked about this morning is partnership. We must all work together to build a future where Aboriginal people share fully in the prosperity of this great country. Not one person or organization can do it alone.

I invite you to take full advantage of the opportunities offered at this conference to meet future partners, share information and learn from others.

Thank you.

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