CPA Encourages Aboriginal Business Success

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“Recent numbers show that there’s a 59%1 growth rate for Indigenous self-employed. That’s awesome.”

So says Helen Bobiwash, FCPA and a CAFM (Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager) and proud and active member of the Anishinabek Nation.

A distinguished leader and visionary innovator, Helen is an independent accountant who has been working directly with First Nations and Aboriginal not-for-profit organizations for some 25 years now to provide financial leadership tailored to Indigenous cultures and communities.

“The folks I deal with are excellent business people. There is a misconception that our community is in some way incompetent regarding money management and business, but this is based on stereotypes. A better and more truthful understanding is starting to emerge, but there is still a long way to go.”

The truth of First Nations relationship to financial management is very important to Helen. She feels that by studying to become a CPA, she learned what constituted a new language, a language that demands veracity and helped her see things in a broader perspective.

“Numbers don’t lie, and the way we use numbers in our profession allows us to use details to construct a big picture. This means I’m able to help individual businesses and then see how that will affect whole communities. The good news is that statistics prove that things are really looking up for First Nations businesses.”

One of the things Helen enjoys most about her work is travelling to distant communities.

“I love the wildlife. As I drive, I see all kinds of birds and animals…moose even. It really lowers my stress levels. And once I get into the communities, I learn so much about my own culture and language. I grew up outside of it in an urban centre, so it’s like I’m really getting to know my roots. This really helps me grow as a person.”

Given her extensive experience of working with First Nation entrepreneurs, how does Helen view the future for what she feels is a very misunderstood business community?

“I interact with hard-working, imaginative and successful business people. They are the proof that Indigenous people can be successful and can be in the driver’s seat of their own future.”

1 Statistics Canada, 2006 Aboriginal Population Profile, 2006 Census (Statistics Canada, 2008, Ottawa)Statistics Canada, Aboriginal Population Profile, 2016 Census