Good news

Trailblazing initiative looks to empower Indigenous women investors

Upon discovering she was the first Indigenous woman to be a private investor in Canada, this UVic grad made it her mission not to be the last

By Emily Fagan
March 12, 2021
Good news

Trailblazing initiative looks to empower Indigenous women investors

Upon discovering she was the first Indigenous woman to be a private investor in Canada, this UVic grad made it her mission not to be the last

By Emily Fagan
Mar 12, 2021
Submitted
Good news

Trailblazing initiative looks to empower Indigenous women investors

Upon discovering she was the first Indigenous woman to be a private investor in Canada, this UVic grad made it her mission not to be the last

By Emily Fagan
March 12, 2021
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Trailblazing initiative looks to empower Indigenous women investors
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To Sage Lacerte, investing in an Indigenious-owned green energy company almost two years ago seemed like a no-brainer. Little did she know that investment would make her Canada’s first Indigenous woman to be a private investor, with ownership of private shares not traded on the stock market.  

The news shocked her.

“I said, ‘I shouldn't be the first,’ she recalled. “And why am I alone in this?”

Lacerte realized she wasn’t satisfied with simply shattering this glass ceiling—she wanted to help raise up other Indigenous women alongside her.

Since then, 23-year-old Lacerte has been hard at work to establish the Sage Initiative, an impact investing collective for Indigenous women looking to gain investment skills and financial literacy to open up new opportunities for them and their families to prosper. Lacerte says this program is the first of its kind, and will be inclusive of trans, two-spirit, and nonbinary people—she prefers to label her group as a collective of Indigenous womxn.

She aims to start recruiting the first 10 impact investors in April, with the training program anticipated to begin in September. Each member of the Sage Initiative will be paired with a mentor that will provide support and sector-specific expertise.

In a study on impact investing in Indigenous communities, UBC researchers found a “strong unrealized potential” in the financial opportunity groups including Raven Indigenous Capital Partners—Canada’s only Indigenous impact investment firm, of which Lacerte’s father is a founding partner—could bring through pursuing markets aligned with traditional Indigenous values.

“We offer training that is an integrated approach between trauma-informed and Indigenous commerce, mixed with the kind of real hard skills of investment,” said Lacerte. “The hope behind that is to promote economic empowerment for Indigenous women.”

Empowering Indigenous communities is the work Lacerte was raised on. Her father and sister, Paul and Raven Lacerte, founded the Moose Hide Campaign to end violence against women and children through building commitments from Indigenous and non-Indigenous men. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the campaign, more than 80,000 people joined in the online event for Moose Hide Campaign Day this February. 

Lacerte’s first job at 15 was crafting the campaign’s moose hide pins, which they distribute to inspire people to start five conversations each about the steps to ending gender-based violence. More than two million moose hide pins have been given out since 2011, which Lacerte—now the campaign’s National Youth Ambassador—says is symbolic of 10 million conversations. These conversations, Lacerte and her family feel, are a crucial step to systemic change.

She credits her family for helping forge the path for her to become an investor at a young age. Although her financial literacy is largely self-taught, she’s inspired by her father and his work at Raven Indigenous Capital Partners.

“I was very lucky,” she said. “I'm probably one of the first generations of [Indigenous] people who has money beyond survival since the entire generation of people who were stripped of their wealth by the state.”

Indigenous people in Canada still face barriers to accessing basic financial tools like banking and investment accounts, and are impacted by disproportionate levels of poverty, incarceration, and environmental racism. Sometimes this inequity is taken literally: in 2020, an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter were handcuffed and detained by police while trying to open a bank account in Vancouver. The pair have filed a human rights complaint, and say their case is evidence of systemic racism.

In the face of these challenges, Lacerte hopes to learn alongside her cohorts of Indigenous women investors how they can put their financial power to use in a way that is resurgent and healing for their communities. 

“I didn't do an econ degree, I didn't do a business degree, but I did learn the back end about how power works,” said Lacerte, who graduated from the University of Victoria last year with a degree in Gender Studies. She’ll be participating in the Sage Initiative along with the first cohort to deepen her investing and financial literacy skills.

“What is really empowering to me is that I will be participating in my own school, and I think that will be really beneficial.”

Like her sister Raven has done with the Moose Hide Campaign, she intends to grow along with the Sage Initiative over time. For now, she’s excited to get started with her first cohort of Indigenous investors.

“I've been spending my whole life pursuing Indigenous knowledge just to hold people up; that's really my pursuit in life,” she said.

“We're trying to [redefine] money as love, as something that you use to build something important and meaningful to you, rather than keeping it in a bank.”

Although she might be the first Indigenous woman to be a private investor in Canada, Lacarte won’t be the last—she’ll make sure of that.

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