December 2021 Update- Economic and labour justice




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December @ SOVI

This illustration depicts a scale, set against a purple and blue gradient background. One one side of the scale there is a group of people, holding signs reading "We want change!" On the other side is a man with huge bags of money, who is tossing coins at them from his bag, labelled "Change." (Credit to Kevin 'Kal' Kallaugher).

FEATURE INTERVIEW

It’s difficult to avoid the topic of economic disparity, employment, and the ethics of spending around the holidays. This month, we’re looking at Sustainable Development Goal #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. To begin, SOVI Communications Coordinator Julie Tierney spoke with Sage Lacerte, the Founder and CEO of The Sage Initiative, a national collective of Indigenous womxn impact investors.

Sage is an Indigenous, queer innovator. She is Carrier from the Lake Babine Nation, and currently based on Lekwungen territory. She is also a birth doula, a UVic graduate, and was recently named one of Canada’s 30 under 30 sustainability leaders.

What is the intention behind The Sage Initiative?

The intention is to create a national ecosystem of folks who make small and medium-sized impact investments into Indigenous-owned social purpose businesses. This is meant to keep wealth in communities and ensure Indigenous people have access to culturally informed capital that is value-aligned, as opposed to major banks and investment companies. We’re looking to empower matriarchs, put Indigenous womxn back into leadership roles, and transform community wealth.

The Sage Initiative is the first of its kind. Why did you choose to specifically focus on building wealth for Indigenous womxn through investing?

My dad is a founding partner at Raven Capital Indigenous Partners - the only Indigenous financial intermediary in the world. They raise funds from impact investors and do due diligence toward Indigenous business owners. In learning from my Dad, I became the first Indigenous woman to become a private investor in Canada. I invested in an Indigenous-owned green energy company called Aki Energy. It was then that I looked around the room and asked, ‘Where are all the Indigenous people? Where are the women and genderqueer folks?’ That was a huge drive for me.

Focusing on investment was an answer to a problem. When I looked at Indigenous businesses, the biggest barrier I heard about was a lack of access to capital. There was a lack of people who aligned with Indigenous values, who were patient, and would do equity deals rather than the Dragon’s Den style of skewering you at an early stage. My answer was to create a network of trained investors with particular interest in positive social and environmental impact, who invest in Indigenous owned-businesses. I want to train every Indigenous person I can, and scale this across Canada and Turtle Island until business owners see their access to capital grow and thrive. Women and genderqueer business owners particularly don’t get a lot of investable capital, so it’s about opening pathways.

What does it mean to use money as medicine?

That phrase was coined by an American philanthropist and author, Edgar Villanueva, one of my biggest influences and role models in this space. In Decolonizing Wealth, he writes about how the monster of capitalism turns money into a tool to divide and cause asymmetry amongst people. Returning to the concept of money as medicine means that an investment - or someone’s time and energy - can be used effectively, to create measurable change. Personally, it makes me feel like I can make a difference. Instead of using money as a tool to divide, I can use money as a tool to disrupt old white men’s yacht money. I can tell people about the wealth disparity between Indigenous people and the typical investment manager, and create space for healing.

With the Sage Initiative, we use it as an umbrella term for our method of teaching, which is trauma-informed. This means we prepare people properly. It means our facilitators are trained in EDI, and able to engage with our circle in a respectful and culturally safe way. Nothing is assumed, because we know the relationship between money and Indigenous womxn is so rifted. There’s been so much work put into making us uncomfortable with money, like the policies disallowing us to own land, assets, and to make an equitable wage. It feels like a source of healing to be in control of your own finances and to use your money in a way you’re passionate about.

How could this work lead to transformation within Indigenous communities?

Generations of Indigenous womxn haven’t had the opportunity to participate at the economic table. My mom, father, and their siblings all went to residential schools and church run day schools. The aftermath of residential schools is poverty, disrupted family dynamics, and an experience of intergenerational trauma that makes it difficult to reemerge into society, and advocate for oneself financially. Now, we’re seeing the first generation of young people who can even consider having investable capital and what to do with it. It requires transformation from a survival mindset to an abundance mindset. Though, many people didn’t survive residential schools.

We’re recognizing how younger generations can tap into abundance within our communities, through education, treaties, landwork, and more. It feels important to call in as many people as possible. We want matriarchs and youth to access this training and be part of this process.

Another specific goal we’d like to achieve is to bring more informed practices into Indigenous-owned trusts, to focus on positive environmental and social returns. When Indigenous people form treaties, there are treaty settlements that enter a trust. This capital is then invested- and the highest performing investments in Canada are in crude oil. So, Indigenous-owned trusts invest huge amounts of money into the energy sector…which doesn’t feel like value alignment to me. I want to train one percent of Sage impact investors to become trust managers. Our ultimate goal is to help inform on how 30-billion dollars is invested, and whether it’s going toward harm, or toward supporting Mother Earth, our people, and reinvestment into our communities.

What advice would you give folks who want to participate in decolonizing wealth?

Know the value of a dollar, and that every dollar you spend is meaningful. I’d encourage people to do some intention setting: say you had a list of everything you bought and supported in your lifetime- what would you want it to be? This requires time, because you need to be very honest with yourself. It’s part of your ‘investment thesis.’ If you were to write down where your values are, what is most important to you? Hold yourself accountable to that. It also helps to find an accountability buddy, who knows and supports your spending goals. I do this, and it adds meaning and gratitude to the business owners you support.

Otherwise, be mindful, love each other, take care of one another- that’s all it is.

CHAPTER NEWS

This month we’re welcoming to the team our new Communications Assistant, Christina Southern! She has ten years of nonprofit experience in refugee settlement, environmental activism, and work in the arts - we’re so excited to have her communications expertise on our team!

SOVI is wrapping up this year thankful for the work we’ve been able to do in 2021. From our International Development Week workshop with decolonial facilitator Nathali Arostegui, to our collaborative panel on white saviourism with the Students of Colour Collective and No White Saviours, to Youth Talks, it’s been an amazing year for events. On top of that, we facilitated ongoing programming; we learned together through the SOVI Book Club, built relationships through the Partnership Program, and found a beautiful, brave community amongst the Anti-Racist Community of Practice. Thank you to every member of the SOVI team, past and present, who helped make it possible!

The SOVI team will take a holiday break from December 20th to January 3rd to rest and relax. We look forward to reconnecting with you all in 2022. Happy holidays!

RECENTLY

Image shows a cartoon of a man in bed, sick. He is thinking about work, as a thought bubble above his head shows stacks of files, a computer, sticky notes and a ringing phone. Photo is of the official image for Sustainable Development Goal #8. It shows an arrow above three bars, going upward to demonstrate growth, as if one a graph.

Last month, B.C announced a new sick leave policy, which will extend to all workers covered by the Employment Standards Act. This policy will give workers five days of paid sick leave a year– making B.C the first province in Canada to legislate mandatory paid sick days. Statistics show about half of B.C employees don’t have access to paid sick leave, and these workers are primarily women, racialized folks, and those in low-wage jobs. COVID-19 has proven how dangerous it is to go without sick days; workplace outbreaks emerged across the country because many cannot afford to miss a day of work. Supporters of this legislation call it a step forward toward more just labour rights. Though, critics argue five days is not enough, especially since science, economists, and public health experts largely agree on a 10-day minimum. While this new legislation is a win for many, there are also workers who aren’t included, like many gig-economy workers. Hopefully this step forward will lead to further radical reform when it comes to working conditions and the rights of labourers.

COVID-19 continues to exacerbate economic inequality, globally. In 2020, studies showed how the pandemic disproportionately impacted low-wage workers, women, people with disabilities and racialized folks. Not only were they hit hardest financially, they were also expected to face the most barriers to economic recovery. Similarly, this economic downturn affected ‘developing countries’ far worse than wealthy countries. Almost two years later, financial disparity continues to deepen. Recent reports show how rich Canadians with financial assets are able to save, despite the pandemic. At the same time, poorer households borrow more, accumulate less, and face continued unemployment. This worldwide trend has huge implications. Many experts argue this will continue in 2022, and it’s likely to have intergenerational consequences - setting back years of progress toward greater wealth equity. In Victoria and BC, advocates are pushing for wide-reaching economic and labour reform, focusing on issues like affordable housing, the living wage, and greater income and child care assistance. We must pay attention, and fight for sustainable employment and just economic growth everywhere.

WHAT'S NEXT...

  • SAIL Youth Employment Program I WorkLink Employment Society
    • Are you between the ages of 15 and 30 years old and looking for work? Through the SAIL program, you could receive in-person and individualized employment search and maintenance assistance, support, and facilitation. You will learn key skills to accessing employment, while being paid!
    • For more info: click here.
  • Indigenous Youth Holiday Wellness Event I December 20th I Foundry Victoria Youth Clinic
    • Indigenous youth (13-24 years old) are invited to an evening of cookie decorating, cultural teachings, and a free meal hosted by the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness and the Foundry Victoria Youth Clinic. Take this chance to rest, relax, and join a community space!

    • Further info, here.
  • Youth Champions Program | December 22nd I Inter-Council Network
    • The Youth Champions Program is a peer-to-peer learning exchange and collaboration space for Canadian and international youth, in a spirit of multi-generational collaboration with Canadian small and medium organizations. The program aims to increase their capacities, opportunities, and contribution to public engagement on global issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly gender equality.

    • Apply today.
  • Project Zero Incubator 2022 I January 10th I Project Zero
    • Applications open on January 10th for The Project Zero Incubator, which provides early-stage business ideas and organizations from across BC with access to coaching, workshops, and resources to help them get established. This program is specifically catered to entrepreneurs, businesses and non-profits that seek to support a circular future that has a lower impact on our planet.

    • Learn more about this free program, here.
  • Moving Day Premiere Film Screening I January 20th I The Existence Project
    • Join for the premiere screening of a grassroots documentary that has been a year in the making. Moving Day tells the story of the people who were left outside – quite literally – during a global pandemic, the community that came together, and the day that could pull them apart.

    • Buy your tickets, here.
  • Moose Hide Campaign Day I February 10th I Moose Hide Campaign

    • The Moose Hide Campaign Day is a day of ceremony, where all Canadians are called to join together to take a stand against violence towards women and children and to take practical steps for our collective journey of reconciliation. Join to witness and engage in traditional ceremonies, hear from keynote speakers and the campaign co-founders and to participate in interactive online workshops with traditional knowledge keepers and facilitators.

    • Find all the details, here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” -PLUTARCH

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