The Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC), the first of its kind in Canada, became a Crown Corporation last fall. Designed to engage Alberta-based Indigenous groups and beyond to grow economic opportunities in specific sectors, the organization is ready for official launch this September with their new CEO, Alicia Dubois.
Dubois is a lawyer with extensive experience in financial services from her time over the last number of years with CIBC. Dubois is departing CIBC as their Vice-President, Indigenous Markets, to take on her new role as CEO at the AIOC. “At CIBC, I led the Indigenous Market strategy for commercial lending to Indigenous communities,” says Dubois. “My role was focused on a holistic approach to accessing capital for Indigenous communities that in turn supports prosperity and wellness in those communities.” Dubois is a passionate supporter of self-determination, having seen how access to capital and resultant financial sustainability is necessary for Indigenous Peoples to engage meaningfully with the economy long-term.
The role with the AIOC piqued Dubois’ interest because it is a Crown Corporation that is ‘politically agnostic’ and positioned well to make a difference for Alberta’s Indigenous Peoples. After years of working with Indigenous Peoples directly and indirectly as a lawyer, and then approximately six years in Indigenous financial services, Dubois saw a new opportunity to be part of something that would allow her to continue to create real, wholesale change. “Over my career, I have learned that prosperity for historically marginalized Indigenous groups comes when finance matters are served properly. Access to capital, and the financial system, is the foundation of wellness. Money opens doors, stabilizes lives, and creates long-term growth,” says Dubois. “It alleviates so many pressures and leads people to self-determination. When we can enhance Indigenous access to capital and the economy while also honouring Indigenous Peoples’ cultures and values, we literally change lives for the better. The AIOC will help do that.”
The AIOC supports Indigenous investment in projects in specific sectors—energy (oil and gas, renewable energy, power, and coal), mining and forestry. The provincial government, via the AIOC, made a commitment of up to $1 billion in loan guarantees, to address access to capital issues that can stymie growth in Indigenous economic development efforts. “These loan guarantees enhance access to capital through traditional lenders and make debt servicing costs more reasonable for Indigenous groups,” says Dubois. The AIOC also offers Capacity Grants so Indigenous groups can hire the experts they need for assessments and due diligence, which is the first step for projects to get off the ground. “We have approximately $3 million annually in grant money, to assist Indigenous groups in making independent assessments on project viability,” says Dubois.
Eligible projects can be located in Alberta or elsewhere in Canada, as long as at least one Alberta-based Indigenous group is investing in the project, their participation equates to at least 25 per cent of the investment, and there is a link to supporting Alberta’s economy. All to say, Indigenous groups from outside Alberta may qualify for support. “The economic possibilities that arise from the AIOC programs are remarkable,” says Dubois. “To get involved and learn more, we encourage people to visit our website at theaioc.ca for details.”