Cando among Indigenous organizations that partnered to create successful taskforce
By Sam Laskaris
There’s no denying the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on businesses throughout the world in 2020.
But numerous positive stories have also emerged during this challenging year.
For example, a handful of organizations, including the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (Cando), joined forces to create the Indigenous Business Taskforce, in response to federal government’s call to companies to increase their production of personal protection equipment (PPE).
The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada are the other organizations currently part of the taskforce.
These organizations then collectively hooked up with Indigenous Services Canada and Acosys Consulting Firm, an Indigenous consulting firm, to launch a database of Indigenous businesses.
The goal was to have some of those Indigenous businesses in the database step up and offer to respond to the country’s massive demands for PPE supplies, including masks and sanitizers, to deal with the pandemic.
One of the companies that has been successful with its procurement bids via the federal government is the First Peoples Group of Enterprises. This company, which has offices in British Columbia and Ontario, offers diverse services, including the development of housing and commercial projects.
But one of its other ventures is manufacturing skin products, including sanitizers.
“Before COVID we probably couldn’t give the stuff away,” said George Morrison, the principal of the company’s First Nations consulting team. “After COVID it was like gold.”
The First Peoples Group of Enterprises has successfully landed about a half dozen contracts to supply sanitizers. Orders have ranged between 300 to 3,000 bottles.
“We’re in the system and bidding for larger orders too,” Morrison said.
Although his company does have more lucrative ventures with its housing and commercial projects, Morrison is pleased it is also having some success in landing federal deals to provide sanitizers during the pandemic.
“Obviously we have something to prove with this procurement,” he said. “We want to seize the opportunity. We’re not the only company in Canada doing this. But I don’t see too many Indigenous companies doing this.”
Cando president Keith Matthew is among those who are ecstatic to see that plenty of positives have already emerged from the establishment of the Indigenous database.
Matthew is pleased some contracts have already been awarded to Indigenous companies and he’s hoping considerably more will follow.
“This is good news,” he said. “The more the merrier. I’m very happy that our Indigenous businesses are getting these opportunities from the federal government. That’s why we started this database.”
David Acco, the president of Acosys Consulting Services, was confident the Indigenous database would provide success stories.
“I always knew it would be successful,” he said. “We have the capacity, we have the products and we have the people. But the visibility was not there.”
Acco is confident many more Indigenous businesses will benefit in the near future.
“As the economy evolves from the pandemic to a new normal, I am sure the taskforce will work with the government, other organizations, national and regional, and procurement to drive opportunities for Indigenous suppliers to transact and grow their businesses,” he said.
To find out more on the Taskforce and the Indigenous Supplier Database: https://taskforce-covid19.ca/home#/