2020 Highlights: CanNor support helps Northern Business Community be resilient during COVID-19 pandemic and beyond 

News release

Government of Canada investments aimed at supporting key areas of the Northern economy and maintaining over 1,675 jobs across Canada's territories in 2020

December 22, 2020 – Iqaluit, Nunavut – Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor)

2020 has been an unprecedented year which has brought unique challenges to businesses across Canada, particularly for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the territories – Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon. The Government of Canada has been there to support entrepreneurs and businesses through diverse measures since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to support their recovery by making strategic investments that will help Canada recover from the COVID-19 recession.

At the onset of the pandemic, CanNor quickly acknowledged the hardships faced by the Northern Business Community through the launch of its $15M Northern Business Relief Fund (NBRF) on April 20. This fund provided direct support for ongoing operating costs incurred by small- and medium-sized businesses, in order to help them continue to play their vital role in Northern communities. On May 13, the Government of Canada launched the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) to be implemented by the Regional Development Agencies. CanNor's $34.3M portion of the RRRF complemented the supports already being provided by the Agency's NBRF in order to fill further needs for immediate relief for SMEs in the territories.

Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for CanNor, highlighted the impact of CanNor's investments through direct funding relief this year, which have maintained over 1,675 jobs across the territories, amounting to an investment of over $30.6 million which has supported over 560 SMEs. These investments are positioning Canada for a strong recovery, while supporting the government's commitment to create over one million jobs, restoring employment to previous levels.

CanNor support goes beyond relief funding

In addition to the Agency's relief funding, CanNor has continued to support the territories through its full suite of regular economic development programming, which includes the Inclusive Diversification and Economic Advancement in the North (IDEANorth) program – a program designed to make foundational investments in economic infrastructure, sector development and capacity building to help position Northerners in the territories to take advantage of Canada's innovation economy.

Through its regular programming, CanNor has supported key areas of the Northern economy this year, including an investment of more than $1 million to support new entrepreneurs across the territories through the EntrepreNorth Accelerator Programming and Ecosystem Mobilization initiative which provides online interactive workshops for entrepreneurs across Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon. EntrepreNorth empowers Indigenous and community-based entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and livelihoods across Canada's territories.

In the territories, CanNor's support has been targeted to the areas that need it the most, most notably:

  • Nunavut: Investments were made to support community development projects which included the restoration of the Community Heritage Centre in Baker Lake, as well as feasibility studies for infrastructure development in communities across Nunavut.

    Targeted support for projects that focused on improving food insecurity included funding for the development of a country food processing facility in Iqaluit, exploratory fishing to establish a commercial quota for char in Frobisher Bay, and a feasibility study for a year-round indoor greenhouse in Cambridge Bay.

    Support to clean and renewable energy, fisheries and tourism were also key priorities this year, including a solar energy resource assessment for the Qikiqtani Region, and support for the development of a new hotel and visitor centre in Grise Fjord.

    These investments supported the expected creation of over 40 jobs across Nunavut in 2020.
  • Northwest Territories: Targeted investments were made in tourism with CanNor's support for renovations to Frontier Lodge, a key piece of infrastructure for Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation to take advantage of the economic opportunities related to the creation of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve.

    Support for community development projects was provided through funding to purchase equipment that enabled Acho Dene Koe First Nation's Beaver Enterprises and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation's Det'on Cho Management LP to target economic opportunities in their regions.

    Further targeted support was provided to new entrepreneurs in NWT through Makerspace Yellowknife, which is leading a project that will provide collaborative space to support skills development, job creation and innovative new businesses in Yellowknife.

    These investments supported the expected creation of over 25 jobs across NWT in 2020.
  • Yukon: Key investments were made to support the continued growth of Yukon's innovation ecosystem through funding to YukonStruct and Yukon University to allow them to continue supporting innovators and entrepreneurs in the development of ideas and scaling of operations.

    Yukon's growing agricultural sector received funding that will ensure Yukoners have access to locally produced eggs, vegetables, meat and dairy.

    First Nations were supported to develop renewable energy projects that will provide an ongoing revenue stream, while decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. For example, Old Crow's Solar project which will displace 189,000 litres of fuel per year is scheduled to turn on in 2021, and the small community of Beaver Creek is planning its own solar project to begin construction in 2021. Support to Liard First Nation's development corporation, First Kaska, will allow them to purchase the heavy equipment needed to participate in local infrastructure projects while providing jobs for the community.

    Tourism infrastructure projects including the Dawson City Music Festival's new headquarters, and a multi-use trail linking the top of Grey Mountain to Whitehorse will ensure that Yukon is able to welcome back tourists in 2021 and beyond.

    These investments supported the expected creation of approximately 27 jobs across Yukon in 2020.

CanNor is continuing to focus on making strategic investments in the foundations and structures already in place to keep the Northern economy going. One key element of this is the Agency's annual Expression of Interest, to be launched in early January 2021, as a call for applications for new single or multi-year projects beginning in 2021-2022. 

Coupled with the Agency's ongoing relief funding, the proposed additional funding of up to $3M from the Fall Economic Statement, and funding through its regular economic development programs, CanNor is well positioned to continue supporting businesses across the territories that need it most. 


"The Government of Canada remains committed to working with Indigenous businesses and Northern communities to seize opportunities that will help Indigenous peoples and Northerners move toward self-reliance and sustainable prosperity. Our goal is to make sure small businesses have the resources they need to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and help the economy come back strong in Canada's territories."

– The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for CanNor 

"Throughout 2020, the Government of Canada has made strategic investments to make sure that Northern businesses can adapt and position their operations for successful recovery. CanNor has played a pivotal role in ensuring that some of the most vulnerable small- and medium-sized businesses across the territories survived the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."

– Larry Bagnell, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency) 

Quick facts

  • The Northern Business Relief Fund (NBRF), delivered by CanNor, provides $15 million in funding towards direct support for ongoing operating costs incurred by small- and medium-sized businesses across the territories, in order to help them continue to play their vital role in Northern communities. 

  • The national Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), delivered through Canada's regional development agencies (RDAs), supports SMEs across Canada which have been unable to access existing relief measures and may be in danger of falling through the cracks.  

  • Funding through the NBRF and RRRF has supported a broad number of businesses ranging from main street businesses such as retail shops, restaurants, and corner stores to tourism operators and construction companies.  

Associated links


Catherine Mounier-Desrochers
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Naomi Sharpe
Communications Manager

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