A new business voice for Northern Ontario: Anishnawbe Business Professional Association makes its debut in March with PDAC appearance.

Author:Ross, Ian

As the howling wolf logo suggests, there is an awakening among a new generation of Indigenous entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario and a fledgling business advocacy group.

With major transmission line projects in the queue, and a plethora of natural resource developments rolling out, First Nation businesspeople and communities are finally raising their hands to be included in the procurement process on their territorial lands.

"There wasn't an advocacy voice for the North," said Jason Rasevych of Thunder Bay, president of the Anishnawbe Business Professional Association (ABPA).

"We were running into some issues and challenges with procurement and inclusion.

For the federally incorporated not-for-profit, the official launch is anticipated for March 1 in Thunder Bay when their website goes live and membership registration will be taken.

The group will formally introduce themselves to the natural resource community with a presentation at the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's annual mining conference on March 5.

"Our vision is Anishnawbe business success, and our mission statement is to enhance the opportunities for Anishnawbe business in Northern Ontario through advocacy, education, leadership and strategic relationships," said Rasevych.

Joining him on the board of directors are Rachelle Paquette (vice-president), Ron Maranon (vice-president), Jason Thompson (treasurer-secretary) and Brian Davey (director).

The word Anishnawbe' was incorporated into their association's name to represent an inclusive and potentially widespread membership from the Manitoba border to Sudbury to help fill out their 10-member board.

Rasevych is optimistic they can reel in more than 200 members over the next two years.

He said various tribal councils, Indigenous political groups and agencies just aren't structured or equipped to raise points of advocacy on behalf of the Anishnawbe business community, which is a role the ABPA is eager to take on.

They'll also work with other affiliated groups, such as chambers of commerce, on regional policy recommendations.

"We're really looking to facilitate and provide that ground to have those discussions, which hasn't been happening to the level that it should."

This movement, Rasevych maintains, is long overdue.

First Nation communities have always had their business stars; however, many entrepreneurs and small business owners are now dreaming big, based on the...

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