Dwayne Good reports back from a recent Trade Mission to Canada

I was recently invited to take part in an Australian Indigenous Business Trade Mission to Canada, starting in Toronto and finishing in Vancouver, where we attended the World Indigenous Business Forum.

Courtesy of the hard work by Supply Nation and Austrade, a group of Australian Indigenous business representatives attended a series of meetings with Canadian Indigenous and non-Indigenous companies to learn more about the business landscape and how Indigenous and non-Indigenous companies interact and engage with each other.

Although it was a short trip, it was very impactful. My overall impression was that the challenges faced by Indigenous people in Canada – who also make up a small percentage of the population – are very similar to those in Australia.

For me, one of the key take-away learnings from this journey was around the Canadian law that compels non-Indigenous companies to engage with First Nations communities if they’re operating a project on First Nations land (to offer employment, supply chain and even project profit-share opportunities). This drives greater compliance for the non-indigenous companies to work with the Indigenous communities. In turn, this creates a positive flow-on effect: more jobs, more income and wealth, and entrepreneurship (there are over 50,000 first nation owned businesses in Canada). This law also ensures non-indigenous companies are more deliberate with their engagement – Indigenous engagement is simply business as usual for many Canadian companies, and it seems to produce positive outcomes. 

Another key factor in the Canadian Indigenous business ecosystem is the hard work of the CCAB and CAMSC. Like Supply Nation, they exist to promote Indigenous entrepreneurship. With over 50,000 First Nations businesses in Canada, both organisations play an important part. We were fortunate to spend some time with both organisations’ key staff and some of their Indigenous business members.

The two-day World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF) event, at which many Indigenous people from all around the country gathered in Vancouver, provided an opportunity to experience conference-type content about global Indigenous business challenges, wins and just great stories. The Australian city of Darwin was announced as the winning host of the 2021 WIBF. I know Australian Indigenous businesses will be excited to attend in the Northern Territory.

Broadly speaking, I got the sense that Canadian and Australian First Nations are very similar in how we each view business. We try our best to look after our own because we care for our people and understand the value of supply chain outcomes.

A good example of this is ATCO, a Canadian-owned organisation that has been operating here in Australia for almost 60 years. ATCO’s journey with Indigenous communities is really interesting, and I spoke with Managing Director Pat Creaghan, about the issue.

“Our corporate philosophy is that partnering with Indigenous communities is part of the fabric of the organisation, and it’s the way we do business every day,” Mr Creaghan said.

“With more than 40 Joint venture partnerships with Indigenous partners globally, we’re confident we have significantly contributed to sustainable economic and social outcomes for Indigenous peoples. These partnerships range from equity ownerships to business arrangements that are mutually beneficial for the Indigenous community and ATCO.

“But, there is more to do, particularly here in Australia, where we have a way to go to live up to the example set by our Canadian colleagues” he continued.

“We’re pleased with the progress we have made so far, and we look forward to partnering with more Aboriginal communities and businesses, like Inspire Travel Management (In Travel Groups sister brand), as we have done for many years in Canada and across the globe.”

So, where to from here?

Thanks to Supply Nation and Austrade, we have started the dialogue between the two countries. Like all things of this nature, we must keep the conversation happening to uncover the opportunities.

What outcomes are possible?

  • business to business trade between countries
  • partnerships and alliances
  • businesses expanding into the other countries
  • sharing knowledge, skills and IP
  • working abroad in the other country (like Josh Riley from Business Council of Australia who worked for CCAB).

I’m very glad to have travelled to Canada for this experience and I’m excited to see how this new relationship transpires.

If anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Safe travels,

Dwayne Good
In Travel Group



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