Substantial steps are being made to harness the power of Canada’s Indigenous population within the economy, right here in Regina. Recently, a partnership between the University of Regina and Indigenous Works (a not-for-profit organization which seeks to identify economic and employment opportunities for the Indigenous workforce) received funding from the federal government for a number of key research projects.
For Indigenous Communities, By Indigenous Communities
This partnership is among the first of its kind, as it puts an indigenous organization in the driver seat for conducting research, as opposed to delegating it to non-indigenous academic institution.
“The importance of this is quite simple,” said Dr. Peter Moroz, associate professor of entrepreneurship at the U of R. “This is research that used to be done for indigenous communities and is now being done by indigenous communities. That’s a huge paradigm shift.”
The federally-funded research projects will focus on encouraging reconciliation by leveraging it as an economic tool. Moroz believes companies across Canada have been slow to meaningfully embrace reconciliation, but he thinks it can serve a valuable role as a market driver.
“We’re looking for win-wins. Traditionally we’ve seen corporate entities making investments in communities. What we’d like to see is opportunities for joint ventures which create sustainable wealth for indigenous and non-indigenous groups, which creates inclusion and opportunities for both sides.”
A Partnership for Prosperity
There are a few ways the partnership hopes to realize those “win-wins.” The goals of this research are ambitious, from addressing a pending succession problem among Canadian companies, to identifying and tending to training and cultural needs in order to tap into a powerful indigenous workforce. This spirit of partnership and the need for economic inclusion are echoed by Thomas Benjoe, President and CEO of FHQ Developments and a member of Regina’s Council for Entrepreneurship Growth.
“When I think about some of our Indigenous entrepreneurs, having the support not just of the First Nations community, but for the community as a whole to embrace your participation in the economy is so important,” said Benjoe.
An “On-the-Ground” Leader
Efforts are being made on all fronts by the University of Regina to become the standard for a community of support. Recently the University appointed Bradyn Parisian the first ever Rawlinson Executive in Residence in Indigenous Entrepreneurship. The mandate of this role will include supporting collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous groups wherever possible and encouraging indigenous students to get involved in business and entrepreneurship.
“The appointment of Rawlinson Executive in Residence is part of a process of indigenization that the University has undergone in recent years,” said Moroz. “We see this as not just a beacon, but an actual on-the-ground leader to be able to help a lot of indigenous students and understand their experience in context…I think it’s just one step towards a much larger goal, and there’s a lot of work ahead”
While there’s still much to be done on the road to reconciliation, the University of Regina has positioned itself as a leader in embracing economic and social opportunities reconciliation provides us all.