The B.C. government has announced that it is providing $3.7 million to help Indigenous businesses return to thriving levels by 2024.
In an interview with APTN News, Brenda Baptiste, chair of Indigenous Tourism BC, said the money announced on Jan. 19 will go towards a number of things.
“So that funding will go towards training, capacity building, alignment of our strategic plans between us and the province and other organizations that are based in tourism and support resources to our stakeholders as well,” she said.
She added the provincial government had been their partner in building the Indigenous tourism industry in BC.
According to Indigenous Tourism BC, Indigenous businesses create opportunities for cultural revitalization in communities and economic development.
The provincial government said Indigenous tourism was one of the fastest-growing sectors, generating $705 million and creating 7,400 jobs before the pandemic.
But once the pandemic took hold, 90 per cent of businesses closed or were limited in how much business they could do. Three quarters were forced to lay off staff.
In a press release, Melanie Mark, minister of tourism, said the funding is a call to action to grow Indigenous experiences again.
“This funding is a call to action from the sector to empower Indigenous communities to recover and grow so Indigenous cultural experiences can once again be shared with the world,” the statement read. “This funding supports self-determination, economic and cultural reconciliation and responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.”
Baptiste says the last two years have been challenging, but they worked remotely to provide support through lockdowns.
She added that it’s not just about economic development to communities; it also creates cultural revitalization and identity opportunities.
“This is truly about sovereignty for Indigenous people, it’s about cultural revitalization, and it connects communities whether they are on reserve or off reserve to that cultural identity, and it connects that identity to the province of BC, and hopefully someday we will have that same vision for Canada,” she said.
There are more than 480 Indigenous tourism businesses in British Columbia.