Building the circle of prosperity
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
First Nations Business Forum
Best Western Tin Wis Resort Lodge
Tofino, British Columbia
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Tansi, Boojhoo, Auneen, Sekon, Kwey, Oki, Me'Taleyn,
Bienvenue, Welcome! It's an absolute pleasure for me to
be here today - and it's an honour for RBC Royal Bank to
present the first-of-its-kind "Working Together to
Build a Prosperous Future: First Nations Business Forum
& Trade Show" in Tofino, British Columbia.
of you may know, this conference is the brainchild of one
of RBC's senior managers, Moira Jenkins and Hereditary Chief
Leonard George. Many of us (including me) were having dinner
one night and Moira was sitting next to Chief George. They
began talking and before we knew it, conference plans were
underway. Then we approached Chief Moses Martin and Francis
Frank, who agreed to partner with RBC
and the rest,
is history. Special thanks to our Moira, Chief George, Chief
Martin, Francis Frank and everyone else involved in making
this event happen.
together to push the envelope on building communities -
building the circle of prosperity. Since the Tla-o-qui-aht
First Nation has done such an impressive job of building
partnerships, it seems only appropriate that we're holding
this forum in such a magical place - a place that was once
a residential school and is now the site of treaty talks
and many other community/business events. It's easy to see
why the Nuu chah nulth people resided here for thousands
of years - there aren't too many spots like this on earth
- the wildness of the west coast is much like the spirit
of "the thunderbird - the bringer of magic and power."
assembled some of the most successful people in BC to share
their stories and best practices in creating and nurturing
a prosperous community. We want this forum to foster discussion
on the many opportunities and challenges we face in generating
wealth in our communities. We also want this forum to provide
tools and information that you can incorporate into one
comprehensive community development strategy. We want people
to share ideas and learn from each other. First Nations
communities can teach us a great deal, so we also want to
hear from you - we want you to help guide us along the way.
Most of all, let's have some fun - enjoy each other's company!
a privilege to be among champions today - the likes of Shawn
Atleo (our luncheon speaker), Jody Wilson, Clarence Louie,
Steve Wilson, Tim Low, Al Little, Jeannie Cranmer, Wayne
Drury, Robert Denis, Dave Mannix, Harvey Alphonse, Rick
Thomas, Russell Chips, Bev Martin, Marion Wright, Charlie
Williams, Alan Widdows, Kathy Craig, plus members of the
RBC Team - Rob Johnson, Tom Siemens, Wendy Knight, Harry
Maharaj, Fawn White, Kelly Nordman and of course Moira Jenkins
and Gail Murray. Gail not only represents the face and voice
of RBC, she represents First Nation communities and the
aboriginal community in British Columbia. I just want our
team to know how incredibly proud I am of what they're doing
on behalf of our organization and in support of aboriginal
peoples. If only there was time to acknowledge everyone
there is time to mention one more name
as when I speak
of champions and pride, I must speak of Keith MacDonald,
RBC's national manager of Aboriginal Banking. I know my
colleagues and friends in this room join me in saying "thank
you" to Keith for his huge contribution over the past
nine years. We'll miss you Keith - you'll not be forgotten.
Many, many thanks for your leadership
and on a personal
note, very special thanks for your support and friendship.
we talk about building communities and building a circle
of prosperity, it's important to reaffirm what might appear
to be obvious: the foundation of a healthy community is
a sustainable and diverse economy that generates wealth
for community members, businesses and all those who interact
within the community. That wealth provides income-earning
opportunities for members, contributes to the quality of
life, makes the community an attractive place to live and
reduces poverty and crime - thereby achieving the vision
of a healthy community.
connection between these elements forms what we refer to
as the Circle of Prosperity. In the Circle, there's a direct
link between a community vision and economic activity. The
community develops and builds the vision with the financial
resources provided by a sustainable economic base. That
base is made up of economic drivers, "new wealth generators"
and economic supporters, businesses that circulate money
within the community. Both are necessary for a balanced
economy. Gail will focus on the circle and economic drivers/economic
supporters in her presentation.
a great example of community vision and economic activity
David Anderson, the federal Minister of the
Environment, tabled before Parliament an amendment to the
Canada National Parks Act, that's going to help address
the critical need to re-build a healthy first nation community.
I'm sure Chief Moses Martin knows where I'm go with this
one. "The removal of this land will address acute overcrowding
in Esowista, allow infrastructure improvements to remedy
sewage disposal and water quality concerns, and support
the development of a model community that will exist in
harmony with the national park reserve." For Tla-o-qui-aht
First Nation, the expansion of Esowista reserve is also
"pivotal to the success of the comprehensive community
development plan for a modern village centre, a large sports
and recreation area and playgrounds, a community centre
that will be built along the lines of a traditional longhouse
and the new Band office and administration buildings."
As most of you are aware, this is a community where fishing
and tourism literally drive the local economy. "Hundreds
of thousands of tourists - more than a million - from around
the world visit the area every year because of its spectacular
ocean side and national park location." Talk about
building communities and the circle of prosperity
is a proud partner to many of the communities within BC
and throughout Canada. We're very proud of our record -
that in BC, 43% of all First Nations' communities are our
partners. We have a critical role to play in terms of understanding
community needs and developing proactive ways of addressing
the needs and visions of the communities we serve.
we have focused on identifying programs that address the
critical need for housing, education, and the like. We have
some very progressive programs that bring great benefit
to aboriginal peoples. However, we now need to move forward
and think about addressing the overriding issues. If we
step back and look at the community as a whole, I believe
we'll see that housing programs, etc. are more like a stopgap
solution. In other words, a strong economy will propel housing
because if the majority of the community members is working,
housing shouldn't be an issue.
we're now beginning to look at ways of working with communities
that will assist in the formation of community development
plans. We'll provide our financial expertise in identifying
ways of maximizing cash flow and investments, while following
community development plans.
At RBC Financial Group, we're concerned about the level
of business and public awareness of the importance of aboriginal
participation in the economy. One of our goals has been
to stimulate a public discussion on this issue. We have
done this, in part, by emphasizing the social and economic
consequences of the status quo. In other words, we've said
the status quo is also not an option.
aware that many business people don't always grasp the business
benefits of relations with aboriginal peoples and communities.
For us, the business benefits are clear. We see a significant
and expanding market opportunity. The rapid increases in
the aboriginal population represent new customers. Land
claims represent increased economic and financial clout.
The aboriginal business sector, which has grown at a dramatic
rate in recent years and is steadily moving the aboriginal
population towards economic self-sufficiency, is generating
wealth and creating jobs. The benefits of a strong aboriginal
community are also incredible benefits to the mainstream
business reasons for building good relations with aboriginal
peoples go beyond market opportunities alone. Aboriginal
peoples are becoming an important source of new entrants
and new skills for the workforce. Many companies are benefiting
from having long-term, stable and reliable employees. I
can tell you that RBC has learned a great deal from aboriginal
peoples about consensus building, about the importance of
the circle and about the importance of cultural identity.
It's clear to me that the potential business benefits of
relations with aboriginal peoples and communities are aligned
with our underlying business objective of creating value
for our shareholders. I believe other businesses would arrive
at the same conclusion if they took the time to make a similar
we sometimes have to step back and remind ourselves that
our business relationships with aboriginal peoples and communities
- our banking, lending and other financial services - are
in fact part of a holistic set of relationships where education,
training, employment, partnerships and community relationships
work together to form a basis for mutual benefit and sustained
ourselves building relationships with aboriginal peoples
that lead to market opportunities for our services and skilled
employees for our workforce -- both now and in the future.
will it take for corporate Canada to become more committed
to building business relationships with aboriginal peoples?
We see progress in the number of companies making commitments
and introducing initiatives. More and more businesses are
recognizing the need to hire aboriginal people to capitalize
on market opportunities. And more and more businesses are
contracting with aboriginal owned companies for the same
reason. The fact remains there simply aren't enough businesses
doing this. And, there are costs associated with failing
to act. As I often say, there's a cost to doing nothing
- and there's a cost to not doing enough.
many businesses in Canada are looking at themselves and
asking: are we removing the barriers - solving the problems
- creating solutions - and providing the opportunities that
will enable aboriginal peoples to become full participants
in our society and in our economy? My personal goal is to
ensure that every aboriginal person from coast to coast
takes his/her rightful place in Canadian society. There
are practical ways to proceed. Best practices are becoming
better understood. Many ideas are being shared and will
be shared at this conference.
those businesses - the ones that are more experienced and
knowledgeable - those that have begun to see the business
benefits of constructive relationships, must continue to
speak up and share success stories - convince others they
have a role to play and much to gain from helping to build
communities and the circle of prosperity.
RBC Financial Group achieved our goals? Not yet. Do we have
a distance to go? Absolutely. Are we on the right path?
We believe that we are. We've learned it's possible for
corporate Canada to create wealth with aboriginal peoples
and for aboriginal peoples. In fact, there are unlimited
in the national interest to do more and it's in the business
interest to do more. RBC, for its part, will maintain our
course and will continue to make the investments we need
to in order to make a difference. In many ways, our investment
here speaks to our investment in the Olympic Games. We believe
the Games will benefit all of Canada from the perspective
of economics, sustainability, cultural activity, tourism
and the recognition of the role that First Peoples have
played in the creation and evolution of this country.
Olympic Games are a part of my heritage, they're a part
of your heritage and part of our history. RBC has been with
the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) since 1947 and we expect
to be a major supporter for Vancouver 2010 and beyond. RBC
Financial Group is also there for aboriginal peoples. It's
part of our heritage and our history
it's simply who
Minister Paul Martin promised aboriginal peoples "a
full seat at the table" in dealings with Ottawa at
the Aboriginal Summit on Monday - I was there and heard
his words first hand: "No longer will we in Ottawa
develop policies first and discuss them with you later
principle of collaboration will be the cornerstone of our
hearing the Prime Minister speak, I was reminded of what
a Cree elder from northern Manitoba once said, "Mr.
Coffey, listen or your tongue will cause you to become deaf."
I'm sure the Prime Minister would heed this sage advice
and I urge all of you to do likewise throughout the conference
and in your communities. During the next two days, it's
my (our) turn to listen to you. Enjoy!