A new report has been unveiled examining the economic impact of Indigenous people and communities in Manitoba.

The report called ‘Indigenous Contributions to the Manitoba Economy’ was released during a media conference Thursday morning on Long Plain First Nation’s urban reserve at 474 Madison Ave. in Winnipeg.

Researchers determined Indigenous businesses, governments, households and spending on infrastructure totaled $9.3 billion in 2016.

The project is a partnership between Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Southern Chiefs’ Organization and the Rural Development Institute at Brandon University. The report used the most recent data available from Statistics Canada and other sources.

Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said it’s important to have a document showing how Indigenous people are contributing to the province’s economy.

“I want people to understand it’s very much about relationship building,” said Daniels. “It’s about collaboration and really a focus on sustainability, is my hope for the future, and that people understand there’s going to be a lot of benefits, not just for Indigenous people, it’s going to be for all Manitobans.”

The report says the Indigenous economy was responsible for creating and maintaining more than 35, 700 jobs, providing $1.1 billion in wages and salaries to workers and adding $2.3 billion to Manitoba’s gross domestic product in 2016.

“It validates us as a people as essential contributors to the economy of Manitoba,” said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “Also, it can’t be forgotten that we have always been participants in the economy.”

Bill Ashton, a professor at Brandon University and director of the Rural Development Institute, said the numbers represent a 3.9 per cent contribution the province’s GDP, that’s more than manufacturing (2.7 per cent), accommodations and food services (2.7 per cent), and mining and oil and gas extraction (2.0 per cent).

“It’s a snapshot of where the contributions are for one year,” said Ashton. “This is only the economic story.”

The report states Manitoba’s eight urban reserves as of May 2018 are a critical aspect of the Indigenous economy in the province.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett called it “a hugely important day.”

“It means we finally have quantified the Indigenous economy for both northern and southern Manitoba,” said Bennett. “We finally are able to prove what many have known all along, that Indigenous people in Manitoba play a critical role in the health of the economy here.”

“Today we have the facts. We know that facts can help bust away stereotypes and can actually start to deal with the racism that we are facing in our country coast-to-coast-to-coast.”

Manitoba’s Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke said the project supports the priorities of the province’s economic growth action plan released last month which includes Indigenous economic development.

“Inclusiveness and full participation in the economy will create opportunities for collaboration, partnerships and new economic development that benefits all Manitobans,” said Clarke. “The report informs opportunities to address skilled work shortages and maximize Manitoba’s economic potential, recognizing that Indigenous youth are a very important part of ensuring a prosperous future for all Manitobans.”