June 26, 2012
Check against Delivery
Good afternoon. Elders, Chiefs, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks very much Chief Louie and Dawn for the warm welcome.
It's a pleasure to be here in the spectacular territory of the Okanagan Nation, and an honour to participate in the 2012 Aboriginal Economic Leadership Summit.
It is inspiring to see so many business leaders here from Aboriginal communities across the country. Our government’s priorities are jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity, and we recognize the vital role that Aboriginal will play in helping us achieve our social and economic potential as a country.
I want to congratulate Chief Clarence Louie and his team for hosting and putting together an outstanding program for the Summit, including the participation of Tewanee Joseph and Clint Davis as facilitators.
I would also like to thank the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board for producing this first-ever Aboriginal Economic Benchmarking Report. The Board plays a vital role in helping the federal government to develop policies and programs responsive to the unique needs of Aboriginal people. This Report is another example of the important work the Board is doing to ensure that Government of Canada policies and programs reflect and address the realities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.
The Report was commissioned to collect data on the economic performance of Aboriginal people across a number of areas, including employment, income, and education. It will be a valuable tool as we all work together – Aboriginal communities, governments, and the private sector – to increase Aboriginal people’s participation in the Canadian economy.
In that regard, the Benchmarking Report presents a clear picture of where we all stand — a view of both the progress that has been made, and the progress yet to be achieved.
The Report tells us that First Nations, Inuit and Métis are earning more money, creating more businesses and jobs, and are active in more sectors of the economy— but there are still challenges to overcome.
Income levels for Aboriginal people are still below that of the non-Aboriginal population. The labour force participation rate for First Nation people living on reserve hovers around 55 percent for men and 48 percent for women.
As Canada's population ages and our economy expands, the need for skilled workers will continue to grow. This presents a real opportunity for an Aboriginal population that is young and fast-growing. It's estimated that more than 600,000 Aboriginal youth will have entered the labour market in the period spanning 2001 to 2026. In the next five years alone, approximately 155,000 Aboriginal youth will reach working age. This is an opportunity that we must seize-together-so that the next generation of Aboriginals can achieve the prosperity they seek, and that Canada needs.
This opportunity is amplified by a potential investment of as much as $500 billion in natural resource projects over the next 10 years across Canada.
The geography of our great country means that most of these projects are close to Aboriginal communities, creating opportunities for employment, business development, and other benefits, not just for Aboriginals, but for all Canadians.
The opportunities to benefit from natural resources and other development will increase as our government continues to work on legislation that allows Aboriginal greater control over their land and the resources found there.
First Nations now own or control 15 million hectares of land, while Inuit own or control over 45 million hectares. These parcels of land are frequently in areas rich with resources — diamonds and gold in the North, oil sands and natural gas in the West and nickel in the East.
The task ahead, of course, is how we can best work together to ensure the economic reality for Aboriginal people matches their economic potential.
Our government is committed to working with Aboriginal people to address the gaps in economic readiness, participation, and outcomes identified in the Report, and to harness the incredible opportunities that we have before us.
It's essential for First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and it's essential for Canada.
For instances, if by 2026 Aboriginal education and labour market outcomes equalled those of the non-Aboriginal population in 2001, Canada's GDP would increase by more than $400 billion.
Those are among the compelling reasons why this government introduced the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development.
The Framework was developed with input from Aboriginal people, including the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, other levels of government and the private sector. It represents a fundamental change in the way we support Aboriginal economic development.
It is responsive to economic conditions. It recognizes the increasing sophistication of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and targets real economic opportunities emerging in Aboriginal communities and businesses.
We launched the Framework three years ago this week, and since then we've taken some significant steps forward to help improve the economic outcomes of Aboriginal people.
Two years ago, for example, we amended the Indian Oil and Gas Act to create an oil and natural gas management regime on reserve that is more transparent, efficient and attractive to outside investors.
We've developed regulations under the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act to make oil sands mining on Alberta reserves possible. We're developing regulations to allow the Haisla Nation to operate a planned liquefied natural gas plant.
We've reallocated up to $20 million over two years to allow for new entrants into the First Nations Land Management Regime and welcomed the addition of 18 First Nations from across Canada to the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management. By signing onto the Framework Agreement, these First Nations are beginning a process to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and assume control over their reserve land, resources and environment.
These are just a few examples of the progress we’ve made, but, as much as we have accomplished together in the past three years, the Benchmarking Report reminds us of the work to be done.
I am certain this Summit will offer new suggestions for ways we can collaborate to further accelerate our progress.
I encourage you to take the opportunities afforded by this Summit to explore with your colleagues new and even better ways of doing business—to share best practices and lessons learned. Your communities and businesses will be the stronger for your experience here. Thank you very much.