Connecting communities and supporting Indigenous prosperity
Q+A with Vancity
Vancity is Canada’s largest community credit union, and an organization that prides itself on doing business a little differently, like sharing 30% of its net-profits back to members and communities every year.
With a mandate of driving real change for people and planet, Vancity serves more than 560,000 member-owners and their communities in the Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw territories, with 54 branches in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Squamish, as well as Alert Bay and Victoria.
A member of SIPP since 2018, Vancity signed a three-year agreement this year to be the Catalyst Sponsor of our annual Rising Economy conference, and is a founding funding partner for the Indigenous Prosperity Centre.
Vancity’s Director of Indigenous Banking Strategy, Michelle Laviolette, tells us about the credit union’s commitment to the South Island region and support for SIPP’s latest initiative, the Indigenous Prosperity Centre.
Why did Vancity join South Island Prosperity Partnership?
We joined the South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP) because we found significant alignment between Vancity and SIPP’s commitment to economic growth with a social lens. We were looking to enhance our support for the region, and through SIPP we were able to forge important connections with local residents, businesses and community organizations, municipalities, and the Indigenous communities that call the South Island region home.
In 2021, we began collaborations with SIPP to develop a strategy for the now-launched Indigenous Prosperity Centre (IPC). Vancity is excited to support the IPC as a founding partner.
Vancity has been an integral part in the development of the IPC. Why is it important to Vancity to support this initiative?
We work really hard to find the connection points between Indigenous culture and the needs of Indigenous communities. We aren’t just doing transactional banking services—our work is centred on building relationships and making connections.
Systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples has resulted in an unequal distribution of capital and access to opportunities, which has far-reaching impacts on the lives and financial well-being of many Indigenous communities and people.
The work of the IPC is an important part of dismantling this discrimination, all in an effort to build a more inclusive local economy.
What excites you most about the Indigenous Prosperity Centre? What potential do you see for the community?
The potential is enormous. The IPC opens a path to economic Reconciliation in the region. In my new capacity as Vancity’s Director of Indigenous Banking Strategy, I’m very excited to hear Indigenous perspectives and voices, to develop and deepen relationships with communities across the South Island.
Can you tell us about Vancity’s work on Vancouver Island and your presence in the South Island region in particular?
Vancity has been an active part of the South Island community since 1997 when our merger with Teacher Savings Credit Union resulted in our first branch on Vancouver Island. Greater Victoria Savings Credit Union also joined with Vancity, and now we serve the South Island through four full-service branches in Victoria. In addition, we have mortgage specialists and business lending staff available to serve the South and Central Island regions.
Vancity’s Community Investment team is active in the South Island where we foster relationships with our many local partners. We’re so pleased to be able to support the IPC and other causes we care about through the Shared Success program, which is funded each year by 30% of Vancity’s net profits.
For example, Vancity supports the Synergy Sustainability Institute, a sustainability management B Corp® that promotes social equity and mobilizes climate action in the region through the Vancouver Island Green Business Collective. Vancity also supports the Thriving Non-Profits program managed by Scale Collaborative, which offers coaching and training to help organizations build financial resilience and increase their community impact. We’re proud to support local Indigenous communities through various initiatives operated by the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, the BC Association of Friendship Centres, and numerous First Nations island communities.
While beyond SIPP’s geographic scope, I also want to mention Vancity’s Cormorant Island Community Branch, a partnership with the ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay in the North Island region. During my time managing this branch, I was privileged to witness the impact its presence has on the community, where it contributes to a sustainable local economy and enhances members’ financial literacy.
What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?
Entrepreneurship can offer great mobility and prosperity, not just for business owners but for their surrounding communities. But there are significant challenges. From housing issues and affordability constraints to climate change, businesses and communities on the island are feeling strained.
Vancity is working to build financial resilience. We’re also looking to advance the region’s climate resilience and take action towards a more clean and fair economy. We support these priorities through various initiatives including a First Nations home retrofit pilot, on-reserve home loans, and various Indigenous housing efforts.
As a founding partner in the IPC, we’re dedicated to listening and connecting. We want local Indigenous communities to tell us about their most important challenges. How can we, as a financial co-operative that puts people first, widen access to financial opportunity and prosperity for Indigenous communities in the South Island region?
How might Vancity’s vision of the future benefit the people and communities of the South Island region?
Our vision is a transformed economy that protects the earth and guarantees equity for all. We were founded on the principles of social justice and inclusion. A relentless commitment to our values has helped us challenge the status quo and break down barriers since 1946.
We’ve always believed in the possibility of a better world that serves the needs of all, and we continue to turn our business to the purpose of improving the lives of our members and communities. We listen to the problems facing our communities and we take action to address them. That includes the South Island region and all of the people who live here. Learn more about Vancity’s work to support people and planet at rethink.vancity.com.