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The Bank of Canada is looking to improve how it researches and analyzes economic issues relating to Indigenous communities as part of a joint initiative with the central banks of New Zealand and Australia.

The three monetary authorities announced a Central Bank Network for Indigenous Inclusion on Tuesday. The aim of the “voluntary network” is to give central bankers a place to share ideas about improving Indigenous recruitment and inclusion within their own organizations, and to share “best practices” for collecting and analyzing data related to Indigenous economic issues.

“The Bank of Canada wants to better understand the Indigenous economy and the obstacles and opportunities that Canada’s Indigenous peoples face,” Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said in a news release.

“Our membership in this network provides us with an invaluable opportunity to learn from each other, to forge stronger bonds with Indigenous communities and contribute to making our workplaces and policies more inclusive,” he said.

Around 1.5 per cent of the bank’s roughly 1,800 employees self-identify as Indigenous, the bank said.

The mandate of the new network is limited. It is described in the news release as “a community of practice,” which “will not aim to set or take policy positions.”

Nonetheless, Manny Jules, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, sees the network as an important platform for improving economic and public policy decision making related to Indigenous communities.

Mr. Jules, who began advocating for the network in 2019 as part of the Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics, said the bank and other government agencies need to do a better job collecting economic data on First Nations communities. As an example, he pointed out First Nations governments are not included in the official Government Finance Statistics, which track federal, provincial and local governments.

“We’ve got to get the mathematical formulas to inform better programs for First Nations, and to find better ways to fix the economic problems that we’ve got,” Mr. Jules said.

Miles Richardson, chair of the National Consortium for Indigenous Economic Development at the University of Victoria, said the network was a welcome development that could open the door to greater Indigenous participation in all levels of the economy.

“The [financial] institutions of these countries have denied the existence of Indigenous people as unique societies … and have not accounted for our values and what drives us. And that’s really shut the door on Indigenous inclusion,” said Mr. Richardson, a member of the Haida Nation.

“This dialogue has the promise to open the door a bit and see what we can do with it.”

The new bank network reflects growing international awareness of inequities in the financial system, said Jeffrey Cyr, managing partner of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, an investment fund focused on Indigenous entrepreneurs.

“Having the Bank of Canada leading the charge to change how things are done, I think it is a really important shift in thinking,” he added.

Ideally, he said, the network would result in targets in specific areas, including the number of Indigenous employees and executives, loans to Indigenous businesses and services to remote or low-income communities.

The network will plan a “recurring” symposium on Indigenous economics. The first event will be held by the Bank of Canada later this year.

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