A prominent right-wing public policy think-tank is giving high marks to the way the Osoyoos Indian Band does business.
A study released by the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute Monday concludes First Nations with the highest living standards capitalize on the economic opportunities available to them.
The study also notes these same First Nations are generally “governed by long-serving, fiscally prudent leaders.”
“The evidence is clear — successful First Nations rely on self-determination and make the most out of their own assets rather than relying on Ottawa for their prosperity,” said Tom Flanagan, a Fraser Institute senior fellow, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Calgary and author of Why First Nations Succeed.
Analyzing results from the department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs’ Community Well-Being Index (CWB) — which uses Statistics Canada data to measure income, employment, housing and education on First Nations — the study finds the most successful First Nations with the highest CWB scores have stable, fiscally prudent governments that are open to outside economic investment.
Opportunities that successful First Nations have capitalized on include recreation, tourism and natural resource development.
The Osoyoos Indian Band, for example — which scored 76 out of 100 on the CWB in 2011 compared to the average First Nation score of 59 — operates more businesses per capita than any other First Nation in Canada, including three resorts, a golf course, the successful Nk’Mip Winery, and an aggregates business.
Such business diversity was consistent among First Nations high achievers.
The Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta — which scored 76 out of 100 on the CWB — provides services to oil sands installations, creating jobs for its members. In Nova Scotia, the Membertou First Nation near Sydney, Nova Scotia— which has a CWB score of 73—thrives as a tourist destination with a casino, hotels, a convention centre and a new commercial shopping district.
The study’s conclusions echo language OIB Chief Clarence Louie has shared in the past when speaking to First Nations members.
“I firmly believe every person needs to be in a good-paying job,” Chief Louie said in remarks delivered earlier this year in Flin Flon, MB.
“I don’t like seeing native people unemployed. I don’t like seeing my people on welfare. I don’t agree with welfare. Our people never had welfare before, on the reserves. One old chief once told me, ‘The worst thing Indian Affairs ever brought to our communities was welfare.’
“I’m not looking for handouts. I’m looking for self-sufficiency for my people.”
Interestingly, compensation for leaders of Canada’s most successful First Nations falls below the average salary of all First Nations leaders in the CWB database.
According to the study, the top 21 First Nations with the highest CWB scores spend $4,309 per on-reserve resident (on average) to compensate chief and council, compared to $5,371—the average for all First Nations.
“First Nations in Canada, like any government or individual, achieve genuine prosperity when they tap the potential of their communities and break the cycle of dependence,” Flanagan said.
The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries.
Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being.
To protect the Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org for more information.