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  • Writer's pictureKayleanna Giesinger

Innovative Economic Development in Canadian Indigenous Communities

Based on a history of trauma and neglect, many Indigenous communities within Canada are faced with significant barriers in their pursuit of self-sustaining economic development. These barriers perpetuate a cycle of government dependence and economic collapse (Loney & Braun,2016). In response, economic developers and Indigenous community members have been partnering to establish innovative solutions economies through social entrepreneurship and social enterprises. Within this paper, innovation is the process of creating methods for economic development that build an economy through non-traditional techniques. The application of innovation comes in forms unique to each community challenges and culture. The one thing they all have in common, is all of these solutions work to build local economies with products and services that tackle their most pressing social challenges.

The area of economic development for Canadian Indigenous communities is a research field previously plagued by colonial centred techniques. It is essential to understand that while communities need to establish profit-driven businesses, the methodologies must be sensitive to each community’s history, barriers and social challenges (Anderson R. B., 1997). Therefore, traditional economic development approaches may not be appropriate solutions. More recently, researchers have been innovatively working to form solutions that maintain Indigenous cultures and values. This field of research has grown to understand that economic development centred in capitalism has the potential to stir community conflict.

Many communities view the continued economic development in Indigenous communities as the next steps for Truth and Reconciliation. It is essential to reflect on the history of colonialism that has led Indigenous communities within Canada to economic dependence. Additionally, to resolve their economic oppression, there must be continual actions taken to mend their economies in a way that preserves their independence, culture and identities.

The objective of this paper is to analyze innovative economic development tools utilized in Indigenous communities within Canada and to determine their effectiveness in the solutions economy. Also, to answer;

  • What are the best economic development approaches for preserving Indigenous culture and values?

  • What approaches have been taken for economic development in Canada? Which of these approaches has been effective, which fail and why?

In order to effectively determine these questions and to analyse economic development tools in an Indigenous-Canadian context, an extensive literature review is conducted and then seven case studies are analysed.




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