Toronto creating first indigenous business district
District will be similar to BIAs and help local indigenous people engage in entrepreneurial and cultural projects.
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Plans are underway to establish Toronto’s first indigenous business district.
The city boasts ethnic enclaves from Little India to Little Italy – there are even two Chinatowns – but there’s no area dedicated to the city’s indigenous roots.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam wants to change that. Through partnerships with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations, she’s working to secure 1,300 square metres of land near Dundas and Jarvis streets for the project.
The district could be a gathering place for indigenous entrepreneurs, Wong-Tam said, or serve as a venue for cultural events.
As someone of a Chinese descent who can always trace her heritage in the city, Wong-Tam says the lack of indigenous visibility in Toronto is “shocking.”
“They’ve been here the longest but you’ll not find an Aboriginal BIA that’s not tied to a land treaty or a reserve,” she said.
In recent years, Toronto has acknowledged its location on traditional land, and City Hall is poised to start flying the flags of First Nations on a permanent basis.
Establishing an indigenous cultural and business district is the next logical step, Wong-Tam said.
Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation said interest in the project is another example of how Toronto has been moving in the right direction when it comes to supporting indigenous residents.
“I think we deserve more diversity and this district would be a perfect way to show value and respect,” he said. “You can’t just make those statements and walk away. You have to meet the obligation of helping indigenous people of the country.”