The history of Canada’s Aboriginal people is one of state dependency and a lack of opportunity. To address these challenges, Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy (MLI)’s multi-year Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project has made the case that Indigenous engagement in the booming Canadian resource economy provides a once-in-a-century opportunity to set right the fundamental inequalities within Canadian life.
MLI has done so by employing rigorous research and an ambitious plan to disseminate its findings through regional summits between business and Aboriginal leaders, Parliamentary testimonies, and broader communications. MLI’s unique use of a 12-person Aboriginal advisory team composed of reform-minded Aboriginal business leaders, lawyers, economists, public policy analysts, and other types of scholars informed and oversaw its work, which has given the project greater resonance in Aboriginal communities. Through its advocacy of strategies such as revenue-sharing agreements, legal certainty, and frameworks for Aboriginal equity investment, MLI’s project to improve the lives of Aboriginal Canadians through market-based solutions is having a strong impact. It has won widespread buy-in not only from Aboriginal and business communities but also from the Canadian government.
A number of disconcerting realities involving Canada’s Aboriginal population spurred MLI into action. Young Aboriginal people are faced with the stark statistic that more of them are more likely to end up in prison than graduate from high school. Their earning potential is a fraction of non-Aboriginal Canadians – between 25 to 50 percent. This, MLI says, is a heartbreaking effect of ill-conceived policies of paternalism that have done more harm than good.
“I am immensely proud that MLI has put unlocking prosperity for the Indigenous people of Canada at the forefront of its work,” said Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of MLI. “For too long Aboriginal people have been forced by government policy to live outside the institutions that confer opportunity on everyone else. Our Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy Project aims instead to bring Aboriginal communities into the economic mainstream while giving them more power and authority over their own lives and ensuring that development takes place in a way that is respectful of the environment and Indigenous priorities.”
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