The core of Canada’s economy is dependent on our capacity to ensure every member of our diverse population is active and engaged, utilizing their talents and abilities. This type of structure does not happen naturally. A conscious effort must be made to ensure a diverse group of Canadians is included in new industries, expanding opportunities and aspirations for generations to come.

Indigenous populations are a strong example of such a group, representing a growing capacity to fulfill social procurement. The number of Aboriginal entrepreneurs has grown at the impressive rate of 15.6 percent between 2006 and 2011 and continues to outpace the national average representing every region and business sector.

Our Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) research department has been working across Canada for the last five years to develop cutting-edge insight into the Aboriginal economy. Our studies have shown that the number of Aboriginal businesses generating a profit has increased by 15 percent, with profits increasing by 6 percent in the last five years. In addition, we’ve seen an increase in innovation, with more than 6 in 10 who have introduced either new products, services, or processes into their business in the last three years, up from 49 percent in 2010.

A recent collaboration report series with TD Bank has documented the Long and Winding Road Towards Economic Prosperity and has also debunked Myths Surrounding Canada’s Aboriginal Population. Furthermore, our research has determined that the direct Aboriginal contribution to Canada’s GDP is estimated at more than $32 billion.

Such statistics and findings demonstrate the importance of sovereign relations in the development and inclusion of Indigenous peoples regarding social procurement.

Aboriginal procurement is an important driver of economic development for Canada’s First Peoples. Procurement not only generates revenue for Aboriginal businesses but also forms relationships, drives local employment, and has a direct impact on the wealth and well-being of Aboriginal communities.

The focus on Aboriginal procurement in the private sector has been increasing in recent years and national, non-Aboriginal firms are leading the way through the development of relationships with Aboriginal businesses. For example, when companies like Suncor Energy and Civeo evaluate bids, they consider social value alongside quality and profitability. In highly competitive industries, using a procurement scorecard that acknowledges Aboriginal ownership and representation gives Aboriginal businesses a slight advantage on their offers. This added incentive encourages already highly competitive Aboriginal companies to participate in corporate supply chains. It also provides a springboard for companies to gain confidence and familiarity with the corporate procurement process, which may lead to the expansion of business beyond initial contracts.

We must demand and encourage that better progressive Aboriginal relations become part of this process.  For example, if we can’t find an Aboriginal business, we need to reward companies that have Aboriginal strategies around procurement, employment, business development, and leadership.

Aboriginal business needs more than just a hand up; through procurement we can make it a handshake.