A photo from the 2015 WIBF in Hawaii. Photo courtesy wibf.ca

The World Indigenous Business Forum in Saskatoon is just a few weeks away and organizers couldn’t be more excited.

The 2016 edition of the forum is coming to the city in August and will highlight Indigenous business initiatives from around the world.

This is the first time ever Canada will host the forum. Nearly a thousand delegates and participants are expected from as far away as Australia, South America and Africa.

“Our focus is not even on quantity, but quality,” said WIBF planning committee chair Milton Tootoosis. “We want quality leaders, quality individuals and business people that are committed to participating and being innovated in the inclusion of Indigenous people in their strategies.”

Speakers for this year’s event include SIGA’s Zane Hansen, B.C. Chief Robert Louie, Lisa Meeches — a film producer from Long Plain First Nation in Ontario and Cameco’s Tim Gitzel. Tootoosis referred to all of the presenters as “game changers” because of their proven work to help improve economic outcomes for Indigenous people.

He says too often we see the negative statistics around Indigenous people in the country. He hopes the forum will help create new statistics for Canada’s Indigenous population.

“As a band councillor for Poundmaker Cree Nation, I see first-hand the poverty and the issues and it boils down to own issue — a lack of money,” he said.

“At this forum we are going to hear leaders who have tackled that socioeconomic problem and taken the bull by the horns and taken the full responsibility as leaders to turn that situation around,” said Tootoosis. Tootoosis says all the financing for the forum is in place and the organizers now just need to put into place the final logistics.

WIBF will also coincide with the Saskatchewan World Indigenous Festival of the Arts.

Board member Shaun Soonias says the festival is a way to showcase local and international Indigenous talent. He says Indigenous talent can be found worldwide.

“We really want to be able to showcase that here in Saskatoon,” said Soonias. “We are hosting a World forum on Indigenous business and we want to showcase our talent to the world.”

Organizers of the forum are encouraging those who want to attend to register in advance because walk-ups will be limited.