$5M program to help Indigenous people build financial wellness

·3 min read

The IG Wealth Management’s $5 million program will be helping Indigenous people in Manitoba and Ontario build financial wellness through scholarships, employment skills training and community initiatives.

Partnering with Prosper Canada, both groups will take advantage of financial empowerment organizations such as SEED Winnipeg and Community Financial Counselling Services in Manitoba.

The program will assist Indigenous peoples with tax filing and navigating government benefits as well as provide support to communities with setting and accomplishing financial goals like paying down debt as well as short and long term savings.

“We will be providing service that is responsive to the needs of First Nation communities for free, whether it is training them to do their taxes or that we do it for them,” said Millie Acuna, Manager of Asset Building Programs, SEED Winnipeg Inc.

“We are sensitive to and aware of colonialism, trauma and barriers faced by First Nations, which is why we will be providing them with a customized service delivery for those without accessibility.”

IG Empower Your Tomorrow Indigenous Commitment is a five-year program that will help Indigenous communities bolster the financial confidence of individuals, families and the community overall.

It aims to serve approximately 500 community members and at least two First Nation communities in Manitoba starting early next year.

In January, these organizations will begin to create a shortlist on which communities they will be serving once the program begins.

Even though they aim to help two Manitoba First Nation communities, other communities or individuals are welcomed to reach out to be part of the program as well.

While doing people’s taxes, Pamela Krasniuk, Asset Building Program Coordinator/Indigenous Programs Developer at SEED Winnipeg Inc., noticed that many addresses written were from outside Winnipeg and that many people were coming into the city to sell their taxes.

“They were losing out on a large portion of the money, and they were facing many challenges due to the lack of identification, a bank account or just having to owe money to the bank,” said Krasniuk.

“During a discussion on what we can do to better support the reserves, an idea came about that we should go into different Indigenous communities around Winnipeg and offer free income tax preparations as well as access to bank accounts.”

Krasniuk said that this program is designed to alleviate some of the barriers Indigenous people face in terms of banking and income preparations.

Without access to a bank account, most Indigenous peoples would lose around 30% of their tax sale, which then results in a lower budget to provide for their families.

According to the latest edition of the IG Financial Confidence Index, the Indigenous population scored nine points below the national average in terms of financial confidence.

“Our mission and vision as a firm is to improve the financial confidence of Canadians including Indigenous communities,” said Doug Milne, IG Wealth Management’s Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Community.

“There was a necessity within Indigenous communities around the basic understanding of budgeting, savings and tax filing. Because there was such a need, we knew that we needed to help.”

Indigenous peoples in Manitoba are encouraged to contact SEED Winnipeg Inc. if they would like to participate in the program.

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun