National Aboriginal Business Summit Underway

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 15:08



Over 500 Aboriginal business delegates and leaders have assembled in Saskatoon today for the start of a national Aboriginal business symposium.


The delegates include six premiers.


The main thrust of the conference is to examine and share best practices in Aboriginal business and economic development.


There have been two main themes to the presentations heard by delegates, so far.


Some speakers have focused on the need for Aboriginal communities to become more financially independent from the federal government.


Others have emphasized the need for less Aboriginal dollars to be spent on social programming in order for more funds to be devoted to economic development


Marty Kline, the CEO for the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, says it’s clear too many government departments are responsible for delivering Aboriginal programming.


He says, as a result, too many of the programs are fragmented and woefully under-funded.


Meanwhile, some presenters are urging leaders to not forget community values along the way to economic prosperity.


One of the gathering’s first speakers, Dr. Wanda Wuttunee of the University of Manitoba, says economic development is growing in First Nations country, and with it, a growing number of questions — specifically, how Aboriginal communities plan to conduct their business.


She talked at length about the term “community capitalism”, saying individual communities are the only ones that know how much of their culture they plan to incorporate into their development.


Wuttunee says many communities haven’t had to address that question up until now — but with more business opportunities emerging, she says it’s something every Aboriginal community is going to have to deal with sooner or later.


Last night, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine signed MOUs with Bell Canada and Siemens Canada at the AFN’s Corporate Challenge Dinner in Saskatoon.


Fontaine says First Nations must build partnerships with large corporations in order to close the poverty gap.


He says the deals signed last night are a significant signal that two of the world’s largest companies recognize the potential economic benefits of working closely with First Nations.