With regards to opportunity and security, a disturbing gap exists between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population; a gap created by generations of abuse and betrayal. The ministry has worked with entrepreneurs and leaders in Indigenous communities to create jobs, provide job training and spark new business development.
Workforce participation rates are up; unemployment rates are down; median annual incomes are increasing and more Indigenous businesses are showing a profit. A recent Statistics Canada survey shows Indigenous women with postsecondary degrees or diplomas are now earning more than their non-Indigenous peers.
Sharing gaming revenue
In February 2008, the province and First Nations, through the Ontario First Nations Limited Partnership, signed the Gaming Revenue Sharing and Financial Agreement. Since funding under the agreement began in April 2011, the partnership has received approximately $740 million, providing a stable revenue source to invest in community priorities.
Aboriginal Procurement Program
In 2015, Ontario launched the Aboriginal Procurement Program, enabling provincial ministries to apply procurement preferences for Indigenous-owned businesses.
Participating in the Ontario tendering process and doing business with government provides Indigenous entrepreneurs with valuable experience developing tenders and building successful relationships with government buyers. Indigenous procurement initiatives also enhance partnerships between First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and government, and are an important part of economic reconciliation.
New Relationship Fund
Early in its mandate, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation worked with Indigenous partners to design a program that would ensure communities and organizations could effectively participate in meaningful consultations with government and the private sector.
Established in 2008, the New Relationship Fund provides capacity to Indigenous communities and organizations to better engage with government and private sector.
The fund provides support to First Nations, Métis communities and Indigenous organizations to build capacity, create jobs, develop business partnerships, and to take advantage of economic opportunities.
Since it was created, Ontario has committed approximately $140 million to the fund. Its current annual budget is $14.5 million. In 2017−18, the ministry is funding a total of 109 projects in 158 Indigenous communities.
Indigenous Community Capital Grants Program
The Indigenous Community Capital Grants Program has filled a significant gap in funding for capital planning in Indigenous communities by providing flexible support for planning, renovation and construction of community buildings.
From 2003 to 2017, the program committed more than $38 million to Indigenous communities through 162 major and minor capital grants including renovations to provide safe, local access to education and childcare spaces, and building community centres and small business centres.
Indigenous Economic Development Fund
Ontario is investing up to $95 million over 10 years into the Indigenous Economic Development Fund to support jobs and skills training and to increase access to financing.
Announced in 2014, the fund improves economic opportunities for Indigenous businesses, communities and organizations. The fund continues to address key barriers to economic development, particularly access to financing and skills training through three streams: Business & Community Fund; Economic Diversification Grants; and, Regional Partnership Grants. The fund has supported 81 projects since it began.
Métis Voyageur Development Fund
Ontario is providing up to $30 million over 10 years to the Métis Voyageur Development Fund, a developmental lender that offers loans and grants to Métis businesses. The Fund addresses barriers faced by Métis individuals, communities and businesses in securing financing for economic development, and is a new source of developmental financing for Métis entrepreneurs.
Since it began operation in 2012, the fund has provided more than $18 million in loans and contributions, leveraged over $16 million in additional funding, and helped create or sustain more than 340 jobs in Ontario.
Keeping the HST Point-of-Sale rebate
As part of the transition to the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in 2010, Ontario worked with First Nations to provide a point-of-sale rebate for the provincial portion of the HST for off-reserve purchases by Ontario Status Indians, Indian bands, and councils for qualifying property and services.
Resource benefits sharing
Ontario is committed to working with Indigenous partners on ways to close socio-economic gaps and increase participation in the resource sector by advancing resource benefits sharing opportunities.
In 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, with support from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, engaged with First Nation organizations to support collaborative development of resource revenue sharing in the forestry and mining sectors. Feedback from these discussions has helped to advise the next steps of this initiative.
Investing in clean energy
A partnership between Ontario Power Generation and the Moose Cree First Nation resulted in 438 MW of clean, renewable electricity – enough electricity to power more than 300,000 homes. The $2.6-billion Lower Mattagami River Hydroelectric Project doubled the output of four existing hydro stations on the Mattagami River flowing into James Bay.
During peak construction, 1,600 people worked on the project, including more than 250 Indigenous workers. The Moose Cree First Nation owns 25 per cent equity share in the project.
First Nations and Hydro One
In July 2016, the province and First Nations in Ontario, as represented by the Chiefs-in-Assembly, announced an agreement-in-principle for the province to sell to First Nations for their collective benefit, up to approximately 15 million shares of Hydro One Limited, and up to $45 million in cash, depending on the level of First Nation participation.
In January 2018, the province announced that it completed the sale of approximately 2.4 per cent of the then-outstanding common shares of Hydro One Limited to OFN Power Holdings LP, a limited partnership wholly owned by Ontario First Nations Sovereign Wealth LP, which is in turn owned by 129 First Nations in Ontario. The province also provided seed capital of approximately $29 million in cash to a new investment fund wholly owned by Ontario First Nations Sovereign Wealth LP. This transaction fulfills the province’s commitment in its agreement-in-principle, and will provide meaningful opportunities to First Nations for collective wealth creation and to advance economic development initiatives.
This transaction is unprecedented and truly reflects the spirit of the Political Accord in strengthening Ontario’s relationship with First Nations.
Ring of Fire
The Ring of Fire is a mineral development opportunity in Ontario with multi-generational mineral production capabilities of chromite, as well as a significant production of nickel, copper and platinum.
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, through the Ring of Fire Secretariat, works with all levels of government, Indigenous partners and industry to encourage responsible and sustainable development in the region.
Since 2011, Ontario has contributed more than $114.3 million to communities and tribal councils to support community readiness and capacity-building activities that will help them prepare for proposed mining operations and other development opportunities.
In August 2017, the Premier announced the province’s plan to support Webequie, Marten Falls and Nibinamik First Nations to plan and construct all-season access roads into their communities and the Ring of Fire.
In October 2017, the Government of Canada and Ontario made a joint announcement of funding up to $69.2 million to install about 880 kilometres of new fibre optic cable to five Matawa-member fly-in communities in Northern Ontario in the Ring of Fire region, with Ontario’s contribution of up to $30 million to the Matawa First Nations Management Inc.
Ontario has been working with communities in the region and the federal government to support community wellness and readiness, including work on improvements for drinking water and winter roads.
The government remains committed to an ongoing dialogue with First Nation communities and leaders on tobacco. Since 2012, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and the Ministry of Finance have worked with two First Nation communities, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, on a pilot project basis regarding tobacco self-regulation on reserve and revenue sharing, and have expanded conversations to include other First Nation communities and organizations.
In July 2017, Ontario signed an agreement-in-principle with Chippewas of the Thames to help support community growth and prosperity and advance self-regulation. In December 2017, Ontario signed a similar agreement with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.
The province also signed an agreement-in-principle with the Anishinabek Nation, which represents 40 communities, on tobacco and gasoline regulation and revenue sharing.
Working together towards community-based regulation of tobacco provides a basis for mutually beneficial outcomes for the province and First Nation communities. This cooperation builds relationships and trust, supports economic development and diversification of First Nation communities, and improves business certainty for on‐reserve sales.