copy the linklink copied! Foreword

Approximately 1.7 million people in Canada self-identify as Indigenous, which is 5% of the total population. In Canada today, the Constitution Act (1982) recognises three groups: Indians (now referred to as First Nations), Inuit, and Métis. Among the three groups, First Nations are the largest (at 60% of the total), followed by Métis (36%), and Inuit (4%). Indigenous peoples make a vital contribution to the culture, heritage and economic development of Canada. This report mainly focusses on economic development issues for First Nations and Inuit. Further work is needed to engage with the particular circumstances of the Métis.

Historical legacies of colonialism continue to shape the well-being of Indigenous People in Canada today. Beginning in the 16th century, Indigenous nations established trade and diplomatic relations with new arrivals from Europe. As European settlements expanded across Canada, Indigenous nations were weakened by disease, environmental degradation, illegal occupation and loss of control over traditional territories and resources. These losses in turn weakened a pre-existing sophisticated level of governance, spiritual practice, social cohesion and culture. Over many decades, Indigenous peoples’ on-going resistance to their lack of control and opportunity has eventually brought about some recognition and reparation to the systemic social, political, economic and cultural discrimination they have endured, due, in no small part to successful court challenges and courageous traditional and contemporary leaders.

The regional and local dimension is important to Indigenous economic development because of the strong attachment – in economic, social, cultural and spiritual terms - that Indigenous peoples have with traditional territories. Evidence shows that geography is key to understanding the nature of Indigenous economies. Indigenous peoples are more likely to live in predominantly rural regions (60%, which is 33% more than the non-Indigenous population). The population is also growing faster, has a younger age profile, and is important to future labour supply in rural regions. However, Indigenous Canadians are also more likely to experience poorer socio-economic outcomes. Gaps in well-being between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are higher in rural than in urban regions. For example, the gap in the unemployment rate is 10 percentage points in rural remote areas compared to 5 percentage points in urban ones.

The current Canadian Government has a strong commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians. This report builds on this progress and commitment. It provides recommendations to the Canadian Government about how to support better economic development outcomes for Indigenous peoples at a local and regional level. First, improving the quality of the statistical framework and the inclusion of Indigenous peoples in the governance of data. This includes improving data about Indigenous entrepreneurship and business, and empowering Indigenous institutions to collect and utilise their own data. Second, land is a fundamental asset for Indigenous economic development. The study identifies opportunities to improve the fairness and transparency for how Indigenous peoples can secure land tenure and the use of tools, such as land use planning, to promote community economic development. Third, entrepreneurship provides opportunities for Indigenous peoples to use assets and resources in ways that align with their objectives for development. Framework conditions for Indigenous rural entrepreneurship could be improved in areas such as digital connectivity and financial literacy. Fourth, an approach to governance is needed that adapts policies to places, and that empowers Indigenous institutions and communities. Greater co-ordination is needed between levels of government, including a stronger involvement of Indigenous peoples as partners in the decision-making process.

This OECD report provides actionable recommendations for all levels of governments in Canada to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples in order to develop vibrant Indigenous economies. It contributes to the work programme of the OECD on regional and rural development, and was approved by the Regional Development Policy Committee (RDPC) on 19 November 2019.

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