Aboriginal Social Enterprise Program Aims to Harness the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Aboriginal Communities in BC

June 15, 2016

Aboriginal businesses are driving social innovation in B.C.Urban Matters, a Community Contribution Company (C3), has launched the Aboriginal Social Enterprise Program – an Aboriginal-led, independent social enterprise that will help create meaningful Aboriginal employment opportunities and support First Nations businesses whose goals include profits as well as bettering their communities.

The Aboriginal Social Enterprise Program will identify budding social entrepreneurs, mentor and coach individuals and organizations through the early years of starting a social enterprise and support the long-standing spirit of innovation and respect for community and cultural values that help Aboriginal social enterprises succeed.

Aboriginal social enterprises throughout B.C. are thriving. For example, Songhees Seafood and Steam, a brand-new food truck located in Victoria’s inner harbour, provides Aboriginal youth with culinary training. Menu choices like bison tacos served on house-made bannock and wild B.C. sockeye salmon burgers with cranberry and sage chutney are inspired by traditional First Nations cuisine. The business is operated in partnership with the Victoria Clipper ferry service, with training support from Camosun College.

Smokehouse Restaurant and Smokehouse Catering, operated by the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, supports a four-month training program designed to give participants the prerequisites they need to enter the hospitality industry or pursue further culinary training.

Skwachàys Lodge is a Vancouver boutique hotel that is making a difference. All profits from the Skwachàys Lodge Hotel and street-level Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery flow directly to the Vancouver Native Housing Society, supporting its mandate to provide safe, secure and affordable housing to Vancouver’s urban Aboriginal population.

River Select draws upon generations of First Nations experience to selectively harvest wild salmon from B.C. Rivers. “Selective fishing” methods conserve natural environments and allow River Select to harvest and sell sustainable wild salmon products including canned, smoked, frozen and candied salmon.

Social enterprises use business strategies to create a social or environmental impact. They range from thrift stores to businesses that provide skills training, affordable housing and jobs for people with disabilities. They can also be a for-profit business focused on social objectives. Like any other business, a social enterprise aims to create revenue. What sets a social enterprise apart is that their revenue is directed to a social or environmental goal.

Learn more about the Aboriginal Social Enterprise Program

Apply to be the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Social Enterprise Program


“Doing business for the benefit of the community is something I hear often when I talk to Aboriginal business leaders. Social enterprise is a movement that acts in a responsible way to give real benefits back to the communities that support it, and I believe that the Aboriginal business sector can be a real model for the benefits of social enterprise and innovation for businesses across British Columbia.”

John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconcilation

“In the progression of reconciliation and healing for Aboriginal people, social enterprise is a vital catalyst providing the means for self-determination and Aboriginal community development and sustainability. Every day in B.C., Aboriginal organizations and communities are developing new innovations that provide skills training, community resources and essential services, as well as employment opportunities, through Aboriginal social enterprises.

“Today we celebrate, along with the Province of B.C., all the Aboriginal innovators, on and off reserve, whose approach to social enterprise provides strength and resiliency for Aboriginal people and communities.”

Leslie Varley, Executive Director, BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres

“People want to work with socially-minded businesses and it is exciting to see Aboriginal enterprises being showcased in this way. Social enterprise is a new name for a very old concept. First Nations people have always approached enterprise as a way to benefit community and family – it is a way of doing business that has strong roots in Indigenous tradition and culture.”

Tonii Lerat, Community Development Planner, Urban Matters

SOURCE: BC Government News