Unique challenges

Aboriginal Peoples face additional stresses when moving off-reserve into urban areas. Terry Goodtrack is CEO of the Aboriginal Financial Officer’s Association, an organization whose aim is to strengthen Aboriginal communities through improved management, finance, and governance practices. Terry is keenly aware of the unique challenges that face migrating Aboriginal Peoples. 

“A big part of the problem is in coming to terms with a different sort of system from the reserve,” says Terry. “It’s about how to deal with employment, finding a job, dealing with landlords. It’s also about coming to terms with the cultural differences. When you live on-reserve, you have your family and social supports; when you move, they no longer exist in the same way.” 

The client’s best interest

Central to these challenges are financial matters and making sure that Aboriginal Peoples not only get value for their money, but are also choosing the right options. “When I walk into a financial institution, I want to make sure that they are operating in my best interest. I need to know about the available products in a manner I can understand and know that they’re not going to take advantage of me. ”

Protecting Aboriginal Canadians

Finding one’s way through the myriad of financial products available is further complicated by the ever-increasing complexity of such instruments. This is a problem that Terry feels leads to an imbalance between the client and the institution. “Most people can’t understand them [financial products], so what I’d like to see is a levelling of the playing field.” 

“When you live on-reserve you have your family and social supports; when you move they no longer exist in the same way.” 

According to Terry, that levelling comes in a number of forms, not least of all government intervention. The Canadian government is currently proposing a comprehensive financial consumer code aimed at protecting consumers. The government wants to replace the current series of regulations and legislation with a more streamlined and comprehensible framework. The code, part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013, will seek to give consumers the tools to make informed financial decisions, with a particular emphasis upon protecting vulnerable Canadians.  

However, while Terry welcomes the government’s initiative, he believes firmly that education and relationship building are central to addressing the issues.  Honest dialogue, training and development, as well as building relationships between Aboriginal Peoples and the rest of Canada is the key part to education.