Ontario launches $25-million program for aboriginal economic development

TORONTO – Ontario has launched a three-year, $25-million initiative to support business, employment and training opportunities in aboriginal communities.

The Aboriginal Economic Development Fund was first announced by the Liberal government in the 2014 budget, but details of the program were not revealed until Tuesday.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer says the initiative will have three funding streams.

The first one called Business and Community Fund will help create economic opportunities, the second — Economic Diversification Grants — will enable aboriginal communities diversify and the third — Regional Partnership Grants —will help communities collaborate.

Zimmer says the first stream will be delivered in partnership with aboriginal financial institutions.

Businesses will be able to submit proposals starting early 2015.

In announcing the program, the minister cited a survey showing there are 9,000 entrepreneurs who identify as aboriginals in Ontario alone. But he acknowledged that many of them are facing difficulties in accessing capital.

“The insight provided by the survey helped shape the development of our newest initiative,” Zimmer said.

“This is an investment in Ontario as a whole, because when aboriginal people and businesses prosper, all of Ontario prospers.”