In 1999, AFOA Canada (formerly the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada) was founded as a joint initiative of the Assembly of First Nations and the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada. AFOA Canada sees finance, business and management capacity as a bridge between the vision of independent, self-governing communities and its fulfillment.
Aboriginal finance and management professionals have an important role in helping to translate today’s community aspirations into tomorrow’s reality. First Nations want self-government, freedom from the Indian Act, and thriving communities in which health and education needs are met and Aboriginal cultures and languages are secure, and indeed flourishing.
Because effective management is essential to building social and economic prosperity, our programs and services are designed to raise the financial and management skills in First Nations. As a result, AFOA Canada has become the centre for excellence and innovation in Aboriginal finance, management and leadership. We focus on the capacity development and day-to-day needs of Aboriginal professionals working in all areas of finance, management, band administration, leadership and program management – the leaders of today and tomorrow.
AFOA Canada’s membership spans the country, from coast to coast to coast. Our members are leaders in Aboriginal communities, organizations and companies. We share a strong commitment to financial and management excellence.
Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager Program
AFOA Canada has developed the CAFM program for administrators working in Aboriginal communities and organizations across Canada. The CAFM designation is increasingly the preferred credential for Aboriginal financial management, identifying financial managers who are highly qualified to meet today’s unique challenges. The designation is based on rigorous competency and ethical standards, and a combination of education and experience requirements.
Completion of the CAFM certification program is composed of 14 courses, five of which are delivered online by AFOA Canada. The additional nine courses required to receive the CAFM designation are delivered by colleges and universities across Canada. AFOA Canada now has agreements with nine educational institutions. We also offer a range of online course, instructed by respected and dedicated professionals.
Certified Aboriginal Professional Administrator Program
The Certified Aboriginal Professional Administrator program is designed to establish high competency standards and to provide learning opportunities, which will enhance the workplace performance of administrators in Aboriginal communities and organizations whether situated on-reserve, off-reserve, or in remote, rural or urban settings.
There are three ways to obtain CAPA certification: completion of online CAPA courses (the standard application process), in-person completion of 20 courses at intensive weekend sessions, or special arrangements through “Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition.” PLAR identifies past learning that has been acquired through study, work and other life experiences and allows the evaluation of this past learning against CAPA competencies, so that appropriate recognition can be awarded.
Capacity development workshops
AFOA delivers a wide range of community workshops focused on the following themes:
• Performance measurement and reporting in First Nations;
• Developing an effective management action plan in First Nations;
• An introduction to comprehensive community planning in First Nations;
• Values and ethics in the Aboriginal workplace;
• Strategic planning in First Nations;
• An introduction to economic development;
• The politics of ethical decision-making for elected leaders; and
• Demystifying finance for elected leaders.
AFOA Canada has worked collaboratively with TD Waterhouse and T.E. Wealth to develop a two-day workshop entitled, “Effective Planning, Creation and Implementation of Your Trust,” and was funded by the First Nation Inuit Health, Ontario Region of Health Canada to design, develop and deliver two one-day workshops tailored to the capacity development requirements in financial management for Ontario First Nation health managers. We have also continued to provide capacity development workshops to Métis and urban Aboriginals at the request of the Office of the Federal Interlocutor.
There is an increasing movement away from governance under the Indian Act as Aboriginal communities across the country take steps to strengthen their own governance practices, systems and institutions. AFOA Canada’s highly regarded and well-attended national conferences have focused on the role of effective management and financial practices in creating successful Aboriginal communities and organizations.
Our 2013 National Conference – held from February 12 – 14 in Toronto and attended by over 1,000 Aboriginal leaders, senior managers and professionals – focused on the theme “Relationship Building: Discovering Solutions to Complex Issues” and featured former Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Many AFOA members struggle to fill key financial management positions in their administration. There are many opportunities and sources of assistance for those who want to pursue this career path, yet ironically few young Aboriginal people are pursuing an education in financial management.
This is why AFOA Canada has introduced youth-specific initiatives, such as the Aboriginal Youth Financial Management Conference Awards and the Norman Taylor Memorial Scholarship Program. Norman Taylor, a member of the Ucluelet First Nation and a founding member of AFOA British Columbia, was instrumental in the formation of AFOA Canada. The scholarships named in his memory are awarded to candidates who wish to take AFOA’s AFM or Professional Administrator courses, or who wish to attend the national conference, as well as to candidates who wish to pursue the full AFM program toward the CAFM designation.
AFOA Canada’s mandate also includes a focus on enhancing financial literacy in Aboriginal communities as a way to impart essential skills and to attract Aboriginal youth to the financial management profession. With the support of TD Bank, we have developed Dollars & Sense: Guidance for Aboriginal Youth, a half-day interactive and youth-friendly presentation aimed at middle and high school aged youth, to be delivered by AFOA corporate partners, AFOA chapters and AFOA members in schools across the country. Dollars & Sense is designed to be used as the basis for a high school curriculum taught by teachers in Aboriginal schools.
Journal of Aboriginal Management
The semi-annual Journal of Aboriginal Management is Canada’s only Aboriginal professional management journal. Each issue focuses on a theme and features interviews, profiles, information on professional development resources and industry articles from national and regional experts.
In Canada today, over 37,000 Aboriginal people own a business – an increase of 38 percent over the past 12 years. Agreements like those negotiated by the Nisga’a, Dene, Inuit, and James Bay Cree have established the foundation of self-government, and upon this foundation Aboriginal people have established economic development corporations and finance and venture capital lending institutions to invest capital in businesses and economic expansion. The creation of Aboriginal-owned trusts furthermore enables long-term strategic planning.
Our collective efforts will help us to transition from business models in which we share in the wealth to economic arrangements by which we generate and own the wealth. This will put First Nations in the driver’s seat, deciding the direction, pace and character of economic development in a manner that enhances our cultural, political and economic health.