Minister Valdez announces new support for Indigenous women and youth entrepreneurs

News release

March 8, 2024 – Membertou, Nova Scotia 

Advancing Indigenous economic self-determination is a crucial part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to supporting entrepreneurs across Canada and renewing the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. This means supporting the tens of thousands of Indigenous entrepreneurs and small businesses working to create jobs and opportunities in communities from coast to coast to coast.

Today, the Honourable Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business, alongside Jaime Battiste, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Member of Parliament for Sydney–Victoria, and Mike Kelloway, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Member of Parliament for Cape Breton–Canso, announced $2.5 million in federal funding to enhance the Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneurship Program and create the Indigenous Youth Entrepreneurship Program.

Enhancements to the Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, to be delivered in partnership with the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), will help further break down barriers for Indigenous women to start up and scale up their own businesses. This investment will help up to 2,400 Indigenous women entrepreneurs access the resources they need for their businesses.

The Indigenous Youth Entrepreneurship Program will expand leadership development opportunities for Indigenous youth entrepreneurs and help develop resources with the needs of young business owners in mind.

Canada is home to more than 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses across this country that contribute billions to Canada’s GDP annually. Supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do, and the investments announced today will help more Indigenous women and youth succeed across the country. 


“When we build an inclusive economy, we build a stronger economy. Our government recognizes this, which is why it’s so important to ensure that Indigenous entrepreneurs have the opportunities to succeed when it comes to starting and growing their own businesses. This investment in Indigenous entrepreneurship is great news, as it is another step our government is taking to work with Indigenous communities and organizations, like NACCA, to advance economic reconciliation and further empower incredible Indigenous entrepreneurs across the country.”
– The Honourable Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business

“Women and youth have always been at the heart of Indigenous communities. This support for their economic empowerment will have positive ripple effects right across Canada. Bringing equity-seeking groups into the fold and giving them a seat at the table are the hallmarks of a just society and a competitive economy.”
– Jaime Battiste, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Member of Parliament for Sydney–Victoria 

“Today’s investment in Indigenous entrepreneurs reflects our ongoing commitment to advancing reconciliation and providing opportunities for women and youth. Our government is proud to be supporting initiatives that will create economic benefits for Indigenous peoples, small businesses and communities across Canada.”
– Mike Kelloway, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Member of Parliament for Cape Breton–Canso

“Today’s funding highlights the importance of programs supporting women and youth entrepreneurs. These programs play a vital role in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in the entrepreneurial landscape, ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Let us remember that our work is far from over. The need to support and nurture these programs remains as pressing as ever. Together, let us continue to champion initiatives that empower women and youth, creating a brighter, more inclusive future for all.”
– Shannin Metatawabin, ICD.D, Chief Executive Officer, National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association

Quick facts

  • The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) is a network of over 50 Indigenous financial institutions dedicated to stimulating economic growth for all Indigenous people in Canada.

  • Statistics on Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurship:

    • Number of Indigenous-owned companies in Canada: more than 50,000
    • Contributions to Canada’s economy: $50 billion
    • Number of entrepreneurs who rely on personal savings to start up: 65%
  • Federally funded programs and federal investments to support Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses include:

    • The Indigenous Growth Fund—On April 14, 2021, NACCA launched the Indigenous Growth Fund with anchor investments from the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Government of Canada. The $153 million investment fund provides improved access to capital to Indigenous financial institutions that support Indigenous small and medium-sized enterprises across the country.
    • The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program—This program promotes entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities and seeks to increase the number of viable Indigenous-owned businesses. Budget 2021 invested $42 million to expand the program. It consists of two streams:
      • Access to Capital, which provides non-repayable contributions for supporting eligible business proposals and leveraging additional funding; and
      • Access to Business Opportunities, which provides national level funding to promote a culture of entrepreneurship through national Indigenous organizations to improve access to business opportunities and to enhance the capacity of Indigenous businesses. 
    • The Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program—Budget 2018 invested $2 billion over five years, and $408.2 million per year ongoing, to create and support this program, which includes a stronger focus on training for higher-quality, better-paying jobs rather than rapid re‑employment.
    • The Business Reconciliation in Canada Guidebook—This resource, aimed at non-Indigenous businesses, provides guidance on how businesses might engage in meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities. It was developed in partnership with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and responds directly to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 92. To date, it is the major action by the government in this area.
  • The Government of Canada is also investing in Indigenous entrepreneurship through Women Entrepreneurship Strategy programs like the Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund. With funding from the Loan Fund, NACCA is helping small businesses owned by Indigenous women get affordable loans through partner financial institutions.

  • The CCAB is also helping deliver the Grow Your Business Online portion of the Canada Digital Adoption Program to Indigenous businesses.

Associated links


Nadine Ramadan
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Small Business

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Stay connected

Follow Canada Business on social media for business-related news: (X) Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Page details

Date modified: