An idea emerged following recent visits by indigenous leaders from Canada and Australia to meet with Maori business leaders in Te Arawa to practically explore ways to build especially trade relationships together.

Te Arawa Fisheries CEO and Te Taumata chair, Chris Karamea Insley, says COVID-19 slowed the discussion but did not kill the idea but instead forced a rethink of how such a program might happen.

“We have all become experts in the use of communications technologies like Zoom that enable exchange without the need to travel and hugely reduce cost,” he says.

New Zealand’s High Commissioner, Martin Harvey, says the New Zealand High Commission to Canada is pleased to be part of this initiative to bring together indigenous professionals.

“You have my personal commitment to the project,” says Mr Harvey.

The new INDIGI-X program was created to facilitate the connection of indigenous professionals internationally, to encourage collaboration and economic growth. In this four-week virtual program, Maori, First Nations, Métis and Inuit delegates will work together to provide recommendations which will be published in a report which will be shared with the Canadian and New Zealand governments.

Canative Energy Ltd director, Raylene Whitford, says INDIGI-X is an opportunity for indigenous professionals to connect and network during these times of economic instability.

“Once travel restrictions have lifted, we look forward to planning physical exchanges for our delegates,” she says.

Consulate & Trade Office of Canada, consul & senior trade commissioner, Francis Huot, says he is very thrilled to see this project come to fruition despite the recent difficulties due to the global pandemic.

“This is a great way for young indigenous professionals from Canada and New Zealand to connect and network which will ultimately reach our common goal of increasing trade and linkages between our countries,” he says.

“My personal hope is to see this grow and remain sustainable in the long-term. The Consulate and Trade Office of Canada are proud to be associated with this project and we are looking forward to taking an active part in the delivery of the cohort’s first report.”

Hon Minister Nanaia Mahuta agrees. She says in these post COVID-19 days, it is even more important to share and deepen our relationships with the indigenous peoples of Canada and Australia.

Mr Karamea Insley says this initial virtual program is very much a stepping-stone towards a fuller face-to-face exchange later this year, and ultimately towards the longer-term goal of enabling true Maori-First Nations trade together.

“The interest in the program with our Maori rangatahi professionals is very high. Graduates from this pilot will become ambassadors towards the program being broadened out more widely across Aotearoa and Canada,” he says.

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