Aboriginals less reliant on federal transfers

TheGlobeandMail.com – National – Aboriginals less reliant on federal transfers
March 9, 2009.   BILL CURRY

OTTAWA — A new report argues Canada’s native population has shown steady economic improvement over the past 40 years as communities reduce their dependence on federal transfers by learning skilled trades and starting successful tourism projects.

But the report, done for the Assembly of First Nations, also warns the aboriginal success stories are fragile.

There is a danger that they could quickly fall apart in a prolonged recession because native businesses are not as well established and overrepresented in the primary-resource sector.

The statistics show positive trends on reserves in areas such as education rates, labour-force participation and incomes, although natives still lag well behind the national average in these areas.

The report also found natives are becoming less reliant on government transfers, which represented 21.8 per cent of native income in 2005, down from 28.6 per cent in 1995.

For the most part, the study found urban aboriginals are better off than those living on reserves, and reserves that have a connection to an urban centre do better economically than those that are isolated.

Among the success stories cited:

Cold Lake First Nation in Alberta is working with South Korean investors to design a Canadian “eco-resort” in a South Korean national park.

A southeastern B.C. tribal council has converted a former Indian residential school into the St. Eugene Resort and Golf Course and Casino of the Rockies.

Buffalo Point First Nation in southern Manitoba has several businesses, including a large marina, a golf course and plans for an “aboriginal village theme park.”

Missanabie Cree, near Wawa, Ont., works with the mining industry and also runs a fishing camp.

The report’s release is connected to a convention being held this week in Toronto.

Called the Inter-Nation Trade and Economic Summit, the convention aims to encourage networking between aboriginal and business leaders.

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