HALIFAX, NS & CALGARY, AB – The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, in partnership with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, today released a study about economic and political development among First Nations. Seven Habits of Highly Effective First Nations is co-authored by Dr. Tom Flanagan, Chair of the Aboriginal Futures program at Frontier and Professor Emeritus at the University of Calgary, and Lee Harding, an intern at the Frontier Centre.

The paper examines 21 First Nations in Canada who scored highly on the 2011 Community Well-being Index (CWB), which is computed by researchers at the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) after each census. The CWB index includes Statistics Canada data related to incomes, labour market participation, educational achievement and housing quality. 11 of these 21 high-achieving First Nations are located in British Columbia, well above the province’s share of First Nations nationally (32 percent). The others are scattered throughout Canada, showing that high achievement for First Nations is not limited to any single region.

The authors discuss commonalities to many of the 21 successful First Nations, including geographical proximity to non-Aboriginal municipalities, willingness to capitalize economically on whatever local advantages exist, a smaller average population than other First Nations, their use of land as an economic asset, fiscal responsibility, good governance, trust in talented leaders and independence from INAC.

They conclude the following as the seven habits of highly-effective First Nations:

  1. Recognizing the economic potential of land.
  2. Taking advantage of local opportunities.
  3. Remaining flexible through diverse investments.
  4. Respecting and supporting effective leaders.
  5. Running a businesslike, economic government.
  6. Taking control of decision-making from INAC.
  7. Willingness to cooperate with others, including non-First Nations communities.
The authors acknowledge that “many First Nations, particularly those in remote northern and rural locations, may have none of these advantages and thus may have to look for other pathways to success. But even in such situations, there can be promising opportunities.” Where implementable, the “seven habits of highly-effective First Nations” constitute a template for progress.

“While there is no universal recipe for social and economic success, Flanagan and Harding perform a very useful service in this comparative study,” said Marco Navarro-Génie, President of AIMS. “Highlighting conditions for success among Canadian First Nations furthers the cause of economic development, and those who pursue it.”

“Dr. Flanagan is Canada’s leading intellectual on the topic of First Nations,” said Peter Holle, President of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. “In this paper, he and Lee Harding demonstrate how some First Nations have become major economic players and how others may follow their example.”

The report is available at this link.