Why More Aboriginal People Need Social and Financial Assistance

Aboriginal people face unique problems and challenges and many need financial and social assistance. Key issues of concern include: lower level of education, poor health, low income, and inadequate housing conditions.

Income

Indigenous people earn about 30 percent less on average compared to non-aboriginals. Given the income gap and inequality, many need financial assistance – click here. Income disparities persist despite the increase in educational level over the last decade. To this, there are government income assistance programs to equip indigenous people with skills and knowledge and close the income gap – click here. Such programs are the First Nations Job Fund – click here and Enhanced Service Delivery which offer training and support to Aboriginal people. Income assistance programs are designed to combat high rates of unemployment. Reports indicate that it will take over 60 years for the gap to be closed. There are active income assistance measures to help Aboriginals find jobs and improve employability, including voluntary work, apprenticeship, and skill training, but there is more to be done.

Employers also identify a mixture of problems, including personal capacities and training and skill gaps that help explain why more Aboriginal people need social assistance. Social exclusion and inequality are mainly responsible for income disparities and the current state of affairs.

Housing and Lifestyle

Shelter is a major problem for many because indigenous communities lack resources to improve the standard of living. Some people live in isolated reserves and communities that are far away from urban centers. About 49 percent of Aboriginal people live in reserves while the rest work and live in urban areas. More people need social assistance because of poor health and nutrition. The government offers public health services and promotion programs to indigenous communities in isolated and remote areas and reserves. These include emergency and primary care services.

There are programs and strategies directed at Aboriginal communities and organizations that focus on health, community wellness, family violence, crisis intervention, outpatient services, mental health, and more. At the same time, there are many problems in need of solution, including food insecurity, health behaviors, and community capacities, resources, and infrastructure.

The Way Forward

Labor force characteristics, lack of sufficient community resources, inadequate living conditions, and lower educational attainment help explain why more First Nations people need assistance. The challenges and problems are many and require complex solutions, better knowledge, and understanding of the root causes, problems and unique environments in which solutions would be developed and implemented. Education, health, living conditions, and income are all silver bullets to help overcome poverty and improve the standard of living. Initiatives such as distance education and teleconferencing may play an important role to this end. Economic development policies and programs directed toward Metis, Innuit, and First Nations people must be adapted to current realities and conditions. Pilot case studies and projects also help close the gap between Aboriginals and the rest of Canada.

What Is Aboriginal Business Development Fund

coinsThe Aboriginal Business Development Fund was established so that indigenous entrepreneurs with more limited borrowing options have access to capital. New businesses are offered advice, management training, and loans, and the fund itself is run by indigenous community organizations. The goal is to improve access to capital and the business climate in local communities.

Eligibility Criteria

Financing up to $250,000 is offered to entrepreneurs who need funds to refinance, expand existing operations, or buy or start a new business. There are eligibility criteria to meet to get approved, and loan amounts vary based on age. Applicants living off or on reserve qualify provided that they are non-status or status Inuit, Metis, or First Nations Aboriginals. Only applicants who own at least 51 percent of the business qualify for financing. Younger persons (35 years and younger) are also offered financing at competitive interest rates. They qualify for business loans of up to $15,000. Under the Aboriginal Business Development Program, indigenous entrepreneurs are offered business-related resources and information, support, and financial assistance. The activities covered include assistance for start-ups, business planning, and growth.

The Business Development Bank of Canada has already approved $1 million for 4 funds across Canada. Funding varies in amount of up to $20,000. Entrepreneurs apply for financing under the program and are extended loans with terms of 2 – 3 years. Here is an example of loans for vehicles and machinery that are to be paid off in full while funding is offered through community-based organizations.

Application

Entrepreneurs fill in an application form and provide information such as economic benefits for local communities, time lines, administrative structure and arrangement, organizational structure, management capacity, justification of costs, and sources of financing. Applicants also include details such as loan purpose and uses, project scope, objectives and description, and schedule. In addition, entrepreneurs provide information on compliance with land tenure and environmental requirements and relevant regulatory requirements and legislation. Applicants who meet the criteria are offered access to credit, and the limits are different for community-owned businesses and individuals.

Other Options for Indigenous Entrepreneurs

Another option is to apply under Aboriginal Business and Entrepreneurship and Development which offers a range of services, including mentoring, training, financial services, and assistance with operating costs and new process and product development. Entrepreneurs also benefit from assistance with marketing initiatives, expansions and acquisitions, start-up costs, and business planning. There are also regional business funding programs that are tailored to the needs of aboriginal entrepreneurs. The First Nations and Metis Fund and the Clarence Campeau Development Fund are two examples.

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