Colored Title bar

National Indigenous Peoples' Week

Jul 10, 2021
Last week during National Indigenous Peoples’ Week, I presented a quarterly update to the City of Lethbridge Council’s Economic Standing Policy Committee. I was asked by Councillor Blaine Hyggen what my team was doing specifically to support the important work of Reconciliation. I appreciated the question and thought I could do a better job of not only communicating our efforts in this area but also seeking feedback on ways to further improve and enhance our efforts.

Responding to Call to Action 92 from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been an important consideration for Economic Development Lethbridge (EDL) as we deliver on our mandate to strengthen and diversify the Lethbridge economy. The work to better support both our urban Indigenous population in the city itself as well as aspiring innovators on neighbouring Treaty 7 nations began long before the Commission undertook investigating and preparing those calls to action.

Since our inception in 2002, the Board of Directors for EDL has included an Indigenous Sector representative. Our volunteer, community based Board provides representation from a broad range of sectors of the economy to ensure we take a balanced approach when supporting local businesses to grow as well as attracting new investment to Lethbridge. I’ve always appreciated the collective wisdom of the community and business leaders who give of their time to ensure we have many perspectives to evaluate our strategy and plans. This designated Board role for an Indigenous Sector representative is part of the way we can address Call to Action 92 (i) to “Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.”

We have worked with the Treaty 7 Resource Group and Alberta Business Link Indigenous Services to provide training for entrepreneurs and deliver programming. We are fortunate over the years to have been invited to visit each of the five nations and bring our training directly to Indigenous clients in their community. We have ensured that funding we receive from Alberta Innovates has always included a project budget allocation to deliver targeted workshops, business advice from dedicated Indigenous Business Advisors and hosting events including several Indigenous Entrepreneur Summits at Tecconnect, a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation owned and operated by Economic Development Lethbridge. Connecting entrepreneurs to resources and helping them to know the various supports available is a key step to accelerate their journey.

We provide business advisors to support entrepreneurs. I’m thankful for the 40+ subject matter experts who act as advisors for both our Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (RINSA) as well as the Women Entrepreneurs in STEM programs. We have a number of Indigenous business advisors who can provide unique expertise and insights to our clients.

Most recently, we concluded an eight week Indigenous Technology Incubator Program supporting inventors and innovators through the commercialization journey. Collectively, these program offerings are how we can start to live up to Call to Action 92 (ii) to “Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.”

The EDL team including our staff, Board and business advisors have been provided access to the Indigenous Canada course offered by the University of Alberta. This free program provides an excellent overview of key concepts in Indigenous history, legal philosophy and culture as a starting point. We have also sought out training opportunities for our team to learn more about Indigenous business practices and ways to build stronger partnerships. A small step towards our commitment to Call to Action 92 (iii) to “Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous Law and Aboriginal-Crown relations.”

There is much more work to do. EDL will continue to work towards each of the Calls to Action and encourages our business community to do the same.

More News