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The federal government’s regional development agencies will commit an additional $40-million to Indigenous-owned businesses and projects as part of Ottawa’s COVID-19 business-support measures.

Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly announced the funding on Sunday, the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The agencies, such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Western Economic Diversification Canada, will direct the money to 73 initiatives from Indigenous communities, businesses and other organizations across the country.

Ottawa first pledged $306-million in pandemic support for Indigenous businesses in April. In June, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced $133-million in support to the nearly 30,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada, including $16-million that would be available through the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.

Ms. Joly was not available for an interview, but her office said that the funding was separate from previous initiatives. It is intended to create jobs in Indigenous communities, finance First Nations- and Métis-owned businesses, as well as support Indigenous tourism operators as the travel industry deals with steep declines because of the pandemic.

The wide-ranging projects will include expanding the Buctouche MicMac Band’s oyster farm in New Brunswick; assisting with operating costs at the Nunacor Development Corporation’s NunatuKavut Business Centre in Labrador; expanding the Gabriel Dumont Institute Training and Employment Métis entrepreneurship program in Saskatchewan; and helping the Yellowknife Dene First Nation develop a business plan for a tourism, cultural and business incubator in Dettah in the Northwest Territories.

Some of the funding will help Indigenous Tourism Ontario expand its food-tourism strategy across the province – already one of the largest of its kind in the world. Kevin Eshkawkogan, its president and chief executive, said in an interview that doing so can help businesses break into the industry and collaborate to better keep up with demand for Indigenous food experiences. The organization also has plans to expand digital and virtual tourism experiences.

“We really want to help Indigenous operators close the economic gap,” said Mr. Eshkawkogan, who is an Anishinabek member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. “There’s a lot of pride that goes into this.”

The funding also includes more than $10-million for Aboriginal Impact Capital, which finances Indigenous businesses through a consortium of Aboriginal financial institutions in Southern Ontario.

The federal assistance is separate from the regional development agencies’ $962-million Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to assist businesses through the pandemic, announced in May.

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada has warned that its sector faces significant risk because of the pandemic. There are at least 1,700 Indigenous tourism businesses in Canada, and the association says that prior to the pandemic, their growth outpaced the rest of the country’s tourism sector.

But it has also warned that, because of pandemic travel limitations, many expect to run out of cash in a matter of months without financial support. More than 700 businesses could close for good and 21,400 jobs could be lost, the association says, as well as $1.1-billion in gross-domestic-product contribution.

The federal regional development agencies also include Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, and the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario.

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