Economic development

Under the economic development component of AIF III, $54.45 million is reserved for the Indigenous nations and communities targeted by the program. The objectives of this component are to

  • create an environment that fosters economic development,
  • create and develop businesses,
  • create and protect jobs,
  • generate investment in Indigenous communities,
  • promote entrepreneurship among women and young people, and
  • encourage the development of social economy businesses.

General terms and conditions

To be eligible for the economic development component, a nation or community must

  • sign a special agreement with the Minister responsible for Native Affairs during the term of AIF III (after the fund is approved and before April 1, 2022) in which the nation or community undertakes to submit economic development projects (regardless of the date on which such an agreement is signed, it will end on March 31, 2022), and
  • not have signed an agreement with the Government of Québec allowing the provincial government to fund economic development projects, unless such an agreement specifies that it will not be detrimental to the renewal of AIF III funding.

For communities that have not used up the economic development budget allocated to them under the second Indigenous Initiatives Fund (AIF II), any remaining amounts will be automatically rolled over to the new special agreement. The special agreement signed under AIF II will then be cancelled and the remaining funds will be subject to the rules herein. All projects submitted but not reviewed under AIF II can remain subject to AIF II or be transferred to the new special agreement for review.

Eligible organizations

  • Indigenous communities and nations recognized by the Québec National Assembly
  • Indigenous nonprofit organizations or equivalent
  • Indigenous for-profit organizations or equivalent

Eligible projects

To be eligible for funds earmarked for nations and communities, economic development projects must

  • be consistent with the objectives for this component of the fund, and
  • be given priority by the nation or community, by resolution, and
  • be submitted to the SAA by March 31, 2022.

Applications for funds reserved for social economy projects, young entrepreneurs, women, and mobilization projects, must

  • be consistent with the objectives for this component of the fund, and
  • be submitted to the SAA by March 31, 2022.

Eligible projects must fall under one of the following six categories:


This category is for the launch, expansion, or development of a business. The project must also meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Be beneficial for the Indigenous population
  • Create jobs for Indigenous people
  • Be economically and socially sustainable
  • Raise the profile of the Indigenous nation or community and the Indigenous population in general


This category is for studies that must be carried out before a project eligible for the economic development component can be put in place. This may include

  • a business plan,
  • a technical or financial feasibility study,
  • a market analysis for an investment project, and
  • studies on the integrated management of resources and traditional Indigenous pursuits.

Studies may not exceed 10% of the total budget for economic development in the nation or community.

Aid for local economic development

This category is for projects that help the nation or community better plan its own economic development. More specifically, such projects must seek to

  • help communities draw up a strategic economic development plan,
  • identify, showcase, and improve access to local resources, and
  • recruit and train local economic development agents in Indigenous communities.

Financial assistance for local economic development may not exceed 30% of the portion of the economic development budget earmarked for the nation or community.

Workforce training

This category is for the development of the Indigenous workforce, with a special emphasis on vocational training. Refresher workplace training required for the launch, expansion or development of a business project under this component of the program may be eligible as long as the trainee is an Indigenous person.

Moreover, project applicants must ask local First Nation centers and Services Québec offices to be partners, pursuant to the respective responsibilities of such centers. The AIF III general application framework specifies that the program is intended to supplement other measures.

Social economy

This category has its own budget, separate from the budget for nations and communities, to support projects submitted by nonprofit organizations active in the social economy, whether located inside or outside the community. The maximum contribution is $200,000 per project.

Social economy businesses sell products and services in up-and-coming industries that are just as diverse as the sectors of the economy covered by traditional businesses. The mission of "social" collective businesses is to sell goods and services that meet the needs of the community. They operate like a business but have a social purpose.

 The social economy includes two types of businesses defined by their legal status:

  • Cooperative and mutualist companies, made up of cooperatives formed under the Cooperatives Act or the Act respecting Financial Services Cooperatives and mutual associations formed under the Insurance Act, and
  • Associations including nonprofit organizations, formed under Section III of the Companies Act and whose financial viability is based on own-source revenue generated by producing and selling goods and services.

The operating rules and principles of social economy businesses define them in a particular way. They must

  • have a mission of serving their members or the community rather than simply generating profit and targeting a financial return,
  • be managed independently of the government,
  • incorporate in their by-laws and procedures a democratic decision-making process that includes their customers,
  • prioritize people and work over capital when sharing their surpluses and revenue, and
  • base their operations on the principles of participation, empowerment, and individual and collective responsibility.

Nonprofits whose mission is not mainly entrepreneurial, such as community organizations, charities, economic development corporations, municipal agencies, and
so on, are not social economy companies. However, these organizations can devise social economy projects that meet the criteria above, for reasons that include generating own-source revenue. Moreover, Indigenous nonprofits in Indigenous communities may also be eligible as long as the goals of their social economy projects include generating own-source revenue.

Economic mobilization

This category also has a budget that is separate from the budget for nations and communities. Projects in this category must have a mobilizing effect on the overall economy of Indigenous communities. They must also be submitted by an Indigenous nonprofit organization and have garnered consensus among the Indigenous nations concerned.

Submitting applications

Project applicants must demonstrate their financial needs and submit to the SAA a business plan that includes the following information:

  • An explanation of financial need and the benefit of using this component of the program to carry out the project
  • The project location and targeted clientele
  • The project timeline
  • A breakdown of the project's expenses and funding, including details of other sources of funding
  • A description of the applicants' relevant skills and experience
  • How the project will be beneficial
  • What has been done to check whether the project is eligible for other funding programs
  • The estimated operating budget for the next three years
  • The latest financial statements, if applicable

Eligible costs

In general, eligible costs are limited to capital expenditures, as defined in generally accepted accounting principles. Operating expenses, the repayment of debt
or deficits, and working capital are not eligible costs.
Some exceptions can be made in the following situations:

  • For study, workforce training, and mobilization projects, all costs are eligible
  • For local economic development aid and social economy projects, all costs are eligible for a maximum of five years

In the case of business acquisitions or acquisitions of interest in existing companies, the costs incurred are eligible if they have a direct and significant impact on the creation of jobs for Indigenous people. The job creation aspect will be assessed according to the payroll or expected payroll to be paid by the eligible company or organization for all jobs held by Indigenous people and created or secured through the project.

Constructions projects

Special condition for infrastructure projects outside Indigenous communities

To be eligible for funding for infrastructure outside an Indigenous community, the organization must meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • Hold the title to the infrastructure
  • Be in the process of purchasing the infrastructure and provide official written proof
  • Hold or be in the process of obtaining a lease or emphyteutic lease that is or will be in force for at least five years after construction is complete

Requirement to seek bids

For eligible projects that require $100,000 or more in construction work, pursuant to the Act respecting Contracting by Public Bodies the organization is not required to hold a public call for tenders to award the contract. However, the eligible organization must meet the following minimum requirements for awarding a $100,000 to $1 million construction contract:

For construction work over $1 million, the eligible organization must, at a minimum, hold a publicly announced open call for tenders. These types of calls for tenders are usually posted in newspapers, displayed in the local offices of construction associations, and/or announced via a public electronic service. Such calls for bids must allow all competent and interested contractors to bid on the contract. The announcements or public notices must be distributed widely enough to reach an adequate number of competent and interested contractors, resulting in a competitive bidding process.

For all calls for construction bids, whether announced publicly or by invitation only,

  • the deadline for bids must be at least two weeks after the calls are posted, and
  • bids can only be requested and contracts awarded
    • at a flat rate, or
    • based on a unit price.

Financial assistance

General category

Financial assistance is given as a grant. The maximum grant is determined according to the financial needs of the applicant and the aid given by the federal government and Québec ministries and government.

Aid granted by the Government of Québec and its agencies cannot exceed 50% of eligible expenses, and the total aid from the federal and provincial governments cannot exceed 90% of the project's total cost, with one exception.

In order to encourage partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, any business formed by such a partnership will be 100% eligible for the program, under the condition that the Indigenous applicant retain effective control and owns at least 50% of the company. If the Indigenous developer is not the majority owner of the company, the financial aid that can be awarded for the project will match the proportion of the company under Indigenous ownership.

Special category

To make funding more accessible for Indigenous women and youth, a special category with its own budget, separate from the budget for nations and communities, has been put in place. SAA has increased the combined financial assistance awarded by the Government of Québec and its agencies to 70% of eligible expenses for projects carried out by Indigenous women and youth.

Similarly, the combined assistance granted by the federal and provincial governments has been raised to 95% of the total costs of such projects. Only young Indigenous people aged 35 or under and Indigenous women of all ages may benefit from this special funding category.

Companies for which over 50% of effective control and ownership are held by young Indigenous entrepreneurs age 35 or under or female Indigenous entrepreneurs of all ages are fully eligible.

Project assessment criteria

Economic development projects submitted by Indigenous communities must have significant and far-reaching effects on the socio-economic circumstances of the nation or community and meet the stated needs and priorities. Projects are deemed to have such effects if they have one of the following characteristics:

  • They trigger or stimulate economic development.
  • They foster the creation and protection of jobs for Indigenous people.
  • They foster the creation and development of Indigenous businesses.

In general, projects are assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Consistency with the program objectives and principles:
    • Eligibility in accordance with the terms and conditions
    • Compatibility of the objectives with the objectives for this component
  • Technical feasibility of the project:
    • Expertise in the technical components
    • Realistic schedule
  • Financial feasibility of the project:
    • Detailed financial plan
    • Reliable, consistent, and realistic budget forecasts
    • Profitability
  • Quality of the organization:
    • Relevance of the applicants' skills and experience to the project
    • Outside experts selected with care, if applicable
  • Thorough market analysis, including knowledge of the target clientele's needs
  • Results achieved from the funds requested:
    • Number of jobs created or secured
    • Investment generated
    • Contribution to local and regional economic development
    • Economic and social sustainability
    • Far-reaching effects for Indigenous people

Reporting and payment methods

Reporting must comply with the provisions of the financial agreement entered into for the project and must include

  • a full report on all activities carried out, and
  • a description of the results achieved in terms of the objectives.

Reporting must include a financial report showing how the grant was used, along with supporting documents. The organization must at all times keep separate accounts for project expenses, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

The agreement specifies the activities, payment conditions, and undertakings made by each party.

Last update: February 23, 2023


Was the information on this page useful to you?
General notice

You have questions or require additional information?

Please contact Services Québec