First Nation businesses face funding roadblocks

Aboriginal-owned businesses in the territory continue to face no shortage of obstacles, says the head of the Yukon First Nation Chamber of Commerce.

Aboriginal-owned businesses in the territory continue to face no shortage of obstacles, says the head of the Yukon First Nation Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s just so many things to tackle, where do I start?” said Lynn Hutton, citizen of Trondek Hwech’in and president of the chamber.

One item is access to capital. Many businesses start up with funds from mortgage-based loans. But for many First Nations, property cannot be used as collateral as they often do not own their homes.

Yukon First Nations with self-governing powers should be well positioned to be able to help individuals with their financing, though they are not quite there yet, Hutton said.

For now, the main financing alternative is Dana Naye Ventures, a Yukon-based financial services company. But the lack of property collateral still means they can charge higher interest rates.

Hutton said this is one reason why Yukon does not have many sole-proprietor First Nations businesses. Though there may be smaller operations like outfitting or trades operations, there aren’t many. “We need to find ways to help those guys out,” she said.

Hutton explained a loan barrier for larger projects comes from outdated classifications by banks. She pointed out that most Yukon First Nations are not Indian Act bands anymore, yet many banks carry hangover requirements from this era that seek two different loan guarantees. “That doesn’t happen in the private sector,” Hutton explained, adding that she is seeing rapid change and interest among banks to help the chamber fix these technical barriers.

Though First Nations’ development corporations cannot yet provide these loans themselves, a future goal is to create a Yukon First Nation private equity company based on contributions from all nations’ trusts to assist local businesses.

While Yukon First Nations have been self-governing for two decades, economic development plans are in some cases just beginning to unfold. Hutton pointed out that First Nation development corporations originally took care of business on a need basis, growing from housing, to fuel to other ventures.

“It’s just been since the last financial transfer agreements that we’ve changed that so we’ve moved our business under trusts, so now our trusts are actually doing business,” she said. “We get some really weird issues that we’re starting to have to learn how to deal with.”

Hutton said the chamber is also looking to create a pan-territorial First Nation business council with Alaska, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, explaining that they’ll have more to offer if they are united. She said northern companies often enjoy a competitive advantage over southern ones that lack familiarity with the land and its people.

Albert Drapeau from the Yukon Department of Economic Development is currently on loan for six months to assist the First Nation chamber. His priority is to communicate with development corporations about what they need for better access to procurement. Hutton noted that many members of the chamber are non-First Nation businesses that have an equal interest in keeping procurement in the Yukon, a subject of heated debate among the territory’s political parties.

“Up here the sky is the limit, we can do anything,” Hutton said. “We have the ability to change things. It’s our responsibility.”

Contact Lauren Kaljur at

lauren.kaljur@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Finance employee charged with allegedly defrauding Yukon government of nearly $50k

Michael Kipkirui was arrested Nov. 12 and is facing eight criminal charges

CBC North reverses decision to replace local a.m. newscasts with ‘pan-northern’ model

Staff at CBC Yukon felt ‘shock and disappointment’ over the original plan, made public Nov. 18

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Reclamation fund being explored in wake of Wolverine Mine receivership

The Yukon government isn’t going to require mines pay more than 100 per cent in security

History Hunter: Travel has been a challenge for Yukon MPs

Getting from Yukon to Ottawa was a trek

Team Yukon finishes 3-6 at 2020 Canadian Mixed Curling Championships

Yukon skip Thomas Scoffin won a sportsmanship award at the event as voted on by the players

Yukoner Jessica Frotten racks up top 10s at World Para Athletics Championships

“I’m really putting everything I’ve got into making that Canadian team for Tokyo”

1898 Yukon gold rush photo featuring Greta Thunberg look-alike sends internet into tailspin

Jokes erupted this week after a 120-year-old photo taken by Eric A. Hegg surfaced from archives

Mikayla Kramer finishes top five at Skate Canada BC/YK Sectional Championships

“I love when there is so much energy in the crowd and I really felt that in this competition”

Whitehorse biathlete Nadia Moser earns IBU World Cup spot on Canadian team

Whitehorse’s Nadia Moser will begin the biathlon season at the IBU World… Continue reading

Whitehorse Glacier Bears host swimmers from Inuvik and B.C. at Ryan Downing Memorial Invitational Swim Meet

“Everyone had a good time – it was amazing. It was a really great meet.”

City news, briefly

Some of the decisions made at the Nov. 12 Whitehorse council meeting

Most Read