» Skills » Economic Development Economic Development | Ecotrust Canada

Historically, fisheries have been the bedrock of many of Canada’s coastal communities, their economies and cultures. But today, BC fisheries are failing our fishing communities and fish harvesters, as the system in BC is broken.   

Ecotrust Canada and the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation are proud to release the report “Just Transactions, Just Transitions: Towards Truly Sustainable Fisheries in British Columbia”.

We believe sustainable fisheries should have a healthy coexistence of ecosystem function and human use. They must maintain ecological integrity while meeting the socio-economic needs of society. Decisions about how to achieve this should include a central role for fish harvesters and their communities in managing and stewarding these natural assets. Ultimately, sustainable fisheries should provide meaningful work and good livelihoods, contribute to local food security and a sustainable global food supply, and support resilient coastal economies and vibrant communities.

This report compares the current management approach of Pacific fisheries that uses unrestricted ownership and open transferability of fishing licences and quota, with alternative management approaches from around the world.  It reveals that BC fisheries are among the worst when judged against four pillars of sustainability: ecosystem health, economic benefits, social benefits, and good governance.

The good news is that many global fisheries are succeeding at creating truly sustainable fisheries, and we can learn from them – including looking at what’s done differently in Atlantic Canada and South East Alaska. The report identifies that the most successful sustainable fisheries from around the world have several attributes in common. A number are relevant to BC fisheries, such as: The owner/grantee of fishery access must be on the boat (owner-operator)

  • Processors and non-fishing companies cannot own licences or quota
  • The fishery is managed by, or is jointly managed with, harvesters and their community
  • Membership in a cooperative or fish harvester organization is required

Along with the input and expertise of fish harvesters, policy makers could adapt and enact some of these solutions to make BC fisheries among the best-managed and socially and economically beneficial in the world. A transition to more sustainable and equitable fisheries is not just desirable, but achievable.

This guide provides supportive materials to on-reserve Indigenous communities seeking to transform their housing systems to maximize local benefits and minimize economic, social and cultural leakage from their communities.

The standard model of residential construction is failing Indigenous communities on-reserve, leading to the overcrowding of homes, disrepair, health issues and cultural degradation. This situation perpetuates already drastic socio-economic inequity, as the high cost to heat poorly built and maintained homes keeps Indigenous families trapped in a cycle of energy poverty.

New housing projects offer incredible potential to achieve sustainable and equitable economic development, create meaningful livelihoods, and enhance cultural resilience on-reserve. Innovation is required to ensure that Indigenous communities are able to fulfil their development visions, while building dignified, culturally inspired and sustainable housing.

The information contained in this guide details an approach to developing a comprehensive baseline assessment that communities can use to assess their own readiness for transforming their housing systems into value-added, community development opportunities.

Additionally, a basic decision-making framework for self-determined housing is provided, as well as a financial resources guide along with other practical and useful information to assist Indigenous communities in thinking about how to transform their housing systems.

The North Coast Innovation Lab (NCIL) is a place-based initiative for people who are invested in the future of Prince Rupert to work together on tangible projects and initiatives that build a resilient economy as a tool for community well-being.

Prince Rupert is a coastal city of around 12,000 people in northern BC, historically dependent on resource-based activities and vulnerable to boom-and-bust economic cycles. It’s a microcosm for many remote communities dotted across Canada who are seeing increased unemployment as jobs move overseas, fewer benefits going to locals from the natural resources near them, the loss of young and educated people to urban areas, and seasonal employment.

In 2015, the City of Prince Rupert set an ambitious, modern vision for the city called Hays 2.0, and introduced a civic engagement process to develop and implement strategies for economic diversification and community resilience.

Integrating with this work, Ecotrust Canada launched the North Coast Innovation Lab (NCIL) in late 2017 to test how an intentionally designed social innovation lab can bring capacity, resources, creativity, and solutions to bear on the serious problems facing the community.

Our approach

Nathan Randall
Project Manager, North Coast Innovation Lab

The NCIL draws on eight years of community-based work in Prince Rupert and our award winning three-year initiative in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab). Crucially, it has been adapted for a northern and municipal context and designed to reflect the unique opportunities, challenges, cultural context, geography, and people that make up Prince Rupert.

The NCIL is a place-based initiative for people who are invested in the future of Prince Rupert to identify, prioritize and work together on tangible projects that build and initiatives that build a resilient economy as a tool for community well-being.


It addresses the desire to innovate within constrained conditions by providing human capacity to advance ideas, a safe space for design and experimentation, and a supported process to develop and evaluate projects that enhance social and economic resilience in Prince Rupert. Within the community, it aims to work at multiple scales to:

  • Develop a shared understanding of the community problems and solutions
  • Strengthen community networks
  • Provide capacity & coordination for community-led projects
  • Collect ideas and share knowledge
  • Build community capacity for social innovation through workshops, partnerships, events, and interactive learning

Over three years, the NCIL aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Spark innovative, collaborative, community-led projects using Social Innovation Lab methodology to address complex systemic problems
  • Acknowledge, complement and activate existing community-wide development initiatives
  • Prototype and nurture small, rural and remote community partnerships with academic institutions
  • Develop student talent for social innovation in rural, northern and industry-dependent communities and economies
  • Enhance the capacity of new and existing businesses, community organizations, and local “champions” to realize their own potential
  • Build a culture of social innovation and collaborative community development within Prince Rupert

Our long term goal is to increase social and economic resiliency for the community of Prince Rupert.


Starting with a focus

After many conversations with the community, the NCIL will focus its first year on projects which:

  • Grow the local economy for fish and marine products in Prince Rupert
  • Enhance co-working, information sharing and resource sharing
  • Increase economic diversification through entrepreneurship
  • Create low-skill income generating opportunities through social enterprise

This will assist projects and initiatives that already have some support or momentum in the community, but would benefit from new networks, additional human capacity, research, coordination or business thinking.

For more info:
What is the North Coast Innovation Lab? The Northern View

North Coast Innovation Lab Year 1 Developmental Evaluation Report

Project insights:
: Recent results of the summer research around fostering the marine economy and enhancing co-working in Prince Rupert

For many years we have seen a sharp decline in the real benefit communities and fishermen receive from their adjacent marine resources. Yet fisheries remain an integral part of the economic, environmental, and social fabric of fishing communities. Ecotrust Canada is working in partnership with First Nations communities and fishermen to design, test and implement financing solutions that can reverse this trend and help meet local objectives.


The Challenge

Communities are facing many challenges in their fisheries: no security of access; deteriorating infrastructure and boats; rapidly increasing purchase costs for new entrants; unstable fish populations; variable market prices; rising operating costs; competition for ocean space and resource use; limited to no succession; loss of fisherman knowledge; and limited or no access to capital.

Limited access to capital has been a serious barrier for fishermen struggling to stay on the water, and has hindered the ability of communities to seed their vision for a viable and dynamic local fisheries economy.

This limited capital access has traditionally been due to:

  • The high or variable risk nature of industry
  • A lack of credit history and/or low financial expertise on the part of fishermen
  • Minimal capacity to build and implement proposals for financing
  • A Low understanding of the fishing industry by financiers


The Opportunity

Despite these challenges, fisheries remain an integral part of coastal communities. If well managed by local leadership, fisheries can provide measurable improvements in community health and resilience. Furthermore, resident small boat fleets are essential to realizing this opportunity and the long-term sustainability of ocean resources. We know that creative and responsible approaches to financing driven by local objectives can lower the costs of going fishing, improve the viability of the small boat fleet and make it easier for younger generations to pursue careers in the industry. This is worth investing in for many reasons:

  • Commercial fishing is vital to the health, economies, and culture of coastal BC communities
  • Fishing is one of BC’s most environmentally sustainable and renewable resource-based industries
  • There is a high demand for seafood
  • Fishing supports regional food security


Solution in Action: A Revolving Loan Fund for Fishermen

We have designed a revolving loan fund with a partner First Nation that will give fishermen access to low-cost loans for in-season start-up costs.

These loans would support fishermen with no current access to financing and give greater agency to those who are traditionally reliant on a company for financing. For example, with this independent financing fishermen would have greater freedom to sell to who they want, increase their earnings, and pursue new or alternative value-added opportunities.

Many fishermen struggle with costs at the beginning of the season: licence fees, ice, vessel repairs, gear upgrades, or even fuel. They have little choice but to fish for large companies who provide upfront loans in exchange for guaranteed sales agreements that offer fishermen a very low price for their catch. This puts the fishermen in the position of being “price takers”. This lost revenue opportunity not only hurts the livelihood of fishermen, but also drains potential income and employment from local communities: for every $1 of revenue generated by a small boat fisherman, roughly $0.80 will remain in the region through wages and spending on gear, food, goods, and services.

For every dollar earned by small boat fishermen, 80 cents stays in the region as spending on wages, gear, food, goods, and services.

Although banks and other investors have historically avoided lending to fishermen due to the uncertainty of the industry and low repayment rates, we are optimistic that a community-based approach to lending can lead to better outcomes.

Each fund goes through a rigorous community design process so community leaders, fishermen, and community members all have a say in structuring the loan fund for success. This community-based approach improves the chance that the repayment scheme will actually work for fishermen and builds the foundation for a structure that enables the fund to grow over time.


Our Approach / Demonstrating Impact

We work in collaboration with our community and industry partners, taking our lead from the challenges they identify and the objectives they provide us. Our partners, like us, recognize and want the economic, social, and cultural benefits that healthy local fisheries can provide, and are committed to helping the viability of small boat fishermen.

For our first pilot fund, this meant getting creative about how loans could be disbursed and collected. We interviewed community members, fishermen, local businesses, fishing industry experts, and the local government to design a model that gives fishermen the access to capital they need, under conditions acceptable to them and the community, including:

  • Loan pricing and cycle time adapted to fishing seasons
  • Non-traditional criteria for borrowing and repayment
  • A straightforward collection process
  • A transparent and fair eligibility process

While the model will not be identical for every community, we believe a partnership-based approach to loan fund design and lending has a much higher likelihood of success and can give better social and financial returns than conventional lending from institutions.

The revolving loan fund cycle.


Expanding Our Reach

Ecotrust Canada can help your community implement a revolving loan fund by:

  • Host an information workshop to understand your priorities and objectives and assess whether or not a revolving loan fund would meet your needs
  • Facilitate a community-led design process to decide on a focus area and fund structure
  • Find funding for the loan design and loan fund, drawing on unrestricted funds from philanthropic sources as well other types of mission based funds
  • Work with assigned individuals and community champions (e.g. band staff) to establish loan administration, including application and assessment tools, risk management policies, and lending procedures – and then check back to make sure they meet the community priorities and objectives
  • Hire, train, and support a local fund manager to oversee the fund and provide financial literacy training for loan recipients
  • Model the direct and indirect economic impacts of the loan fund in your community – how is it actually making a difference?
  • Evaluate the fund on an ongoing basis and recommend changes to the structure as necessary


Ecotrust Canada ‘s background in social lending

Our objective is to design and build alternative economic models that provide greater benefits to people in place. As one part of our portfolio of work and tools, we owned and operated a $4 million revolving loan fund between 1999 and 2010. Our direct experience with the operation of a loan fund – together with our deep knowledge of the fishing industry, the region, the need as described by our community partners and the role of social finance to stimulate change – has inspired us to use this expertise to support small revolving loan funds in coastal communities.

In remote places where fishing has historically been a mainstay economic generator, this phenomenon has taken an unanticipated toll – the loss of shorefront fisheries services like ice machines and landing facilities, as well as increasingly limited access to the sea.

In the small town of Tofino, the last piece of working waterfront – a less than 2,000 sq ft fish processing facility – was under siege from this condominium conundrum. Ecotrust Canada, together with sixteen local residents, joined forces to purchase the plant and continue operations as Trilogy Fish. The business was refocused to support local fishermen and local markets as a top priority, and continues to produce some of the finest smoked salmon in the country to this day.

During the financial crisis of 2009, forest tenures were abandoned and several mills shut down. The inevitable economic fallout that followed – jobs lost, businesses shuttered, services reduced – has haunted them since. Taking a leadership role, the Chiefs Forum went searching for an alternative economic model and determined that the values and approaches used by Ecotrust Canada to create conservation economies made sense.

In 2012, Ecotrust Canada worked with local municipalities, industry, and First Nations to gain agreement. In 2013, we published the economic analyses to back up our plan. In 2014-2015, we are working with the Elders to create a vision for their territory and will use this vision to drive the design of some new business activities that balance cultural, financial, social and ecological interests.

Glencore is one of the world’s largest global diversified natural resource companies and a major producer and marketer of more than 90 commodities. The Group’s operations comprise of over 150 mining and metallurgical sites, oil production assets, and agricultural facilities. They serve industrial consumers, such as those in the automotive, steel, power generation, oil, and food processing, and provide financing, logistics, and other services to producers and consumers of commodities. With a strong footprint in both established and emerging regions for natural resources, Glencore’s industrial and marketing activities are supported by a global network of more than 90 offices located in over 50 countries, employing around 181,000 people, including contractors.

In 2014, the company’s Community Sustainability Initiative team for the Raglan nickel mine approached us to see whether we could assist with the implementation of their community engagement strategy.

Glencore is a member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the International Council on Mining and Metals, as well as an active participant in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. According to Raglan’s Impact Benefit Agreement with the government of Quebec, the two communities adjacent to the mine, Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq are to receive financial and technical assistance from Glencore to grow their local economies. In places of ice and isolation where people have lived off the land for generations, it was not entirely clear where and how to begin.

Six months later, Ecotrust Canada is working with a local entrepreneur to build his commercial fishing enterprise from harvest to market. Plein Nord’s objective is to provide fresh, local seafood to the communities of Nunavik, and to use the company’s operations as a training ground for local youth.

In many North American cities, gentrification of inner city neighbourhoods threatens to dislocate people who have come to rely on these communities for less expensive housing and concentrated service accessibility – creating urban planning, service delivery and economic development challenges of the highest order.

Nowhere in Canada is this more apparent than in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country are juxtaposed against some of the wealthiest. Weakened by the stress of abject poverty, Vancouver’s inner city is under enormous pressure from private development and is struggling to withstand the accompanying forces of gentrification and displacement. Concerns are mounting that as development progresses, local residents and economies are seeing few benefits.

To reduce these pressures, there is a growing desire to explore alternative types of economic development. Local economies in particular have the potential to revitalize the social and cultural health of inner city neighbourhoods.

The Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab) is a place-based initiative which will generate, implement, and scale innovative community-designed and -driven ideas for a vibrant and inclusive local economy in Vancouver’s inner city. Delivered jointly by Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS SFU, the Lab is designed to help community organizations, local governments, and civil society work together to drive forward implementation of the community economic development policies set forth in the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.

LEDlab will enable new cross-cutting mechanisms that encourage the co-creation of solutions that support inner city residents in improving their economic independence. This method will disrupt the historically siloed approaches of service providers, funders, and entrepreneurs for creating social impact in the DTES in favour of a collaborative and place-based model for economic development – one that can serve as an example in cities around the world.

We will work with community stakeholders to identify current challenges and potential solutions, then apply them in a rapid prototyping/assessment model. The Lab will provide 30 paid, full-time internship opportunities over three years for graduate students from across the country to supply research and prototyping support. By documenting and sharing our work – both successes and failures – we hope to advance the fields of social innovation and economic development.



Visit LEDlab.ca


RADIUS SFU and Ecotrust Canada have committed the next three years to stimulating community economic development in Vancouver’s inner city. RADIUS (RADical Ideals Useful to Society) is a social innovation lab and venture incubator based at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. Formed to help SFU and BC step forward as leaders in building the New Economy, RADIUS’s mandate is to strengthen impact-focused businesses and the ecosystem that supports them, develop and test new ideas for an economy that prioritizes people and planet, and build a pipeline of emerging social economy leaders.

Kiri Bird
Program Manager, Ecotrust Lab @RADIUS

The Amp – its name inspired by our location in the old BC Electric Building – is a coworking space anchored by Ecotrust Canada. The Amp’s mission is to offer supportive, affordable, creative space for organizations and individuals working towards positive change. Our space is ideal for those who would like to connect and collaborate with like-minded people.

Twenty One organizations currently call The Amp home, with space for a few more:



Other Services

Office Space

Whether you’re part of a team or flying solo, The Amp has a place for you. We offer all the typical office amenities plus a friendly community vibe.

Event Space

Hold your next meeting or gathering in a beautiful renovation of one of Vancouver’s grandest heritage buildings. And conveniently located near the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station, we’re just a hop, skip, and a jump from downtown Vancouver.


For More Information

Visit TheAmpVancouver.ca for desk rentals and room rates.


Say Hello!

Nicola Parr
Coworking Community Manager

As part of the Clayoquot Forest Communities Program ‘Qwii-qwiq-sap: Standing Tree to Standing Home’ initiative (Qwii-qwiq-sap meaning ‘transformation’ in the Nuu-chah-nulth language), the Green and Culturally Appropriate Building Design Project aims to help guide the building of homes for Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. The design of the homes will take into account cultural design elements such as the traditional long house design; use of local harvested materials such as cedar; geography, climate and community demographics. It has been estimated that there is a need for 200-plus homes to be built in the region over the next 40 years. Coupled with this is a desire to change how current homes are designed and built.

Read on to learn more or jump to the downloadable reports.

Learning from the past

In earlier times, “Buildings were constructed without nails,” recalls Earl Maquinna George, in Living on the Edge: Nuu-Chah-Nulth History from an Ahousaht Chief’s Perspective. “The timbers and boards fitted into grooves and were locked together at the corners so that they wouldn’t move in the wind. The siding of the buildings, made of cedar boards one to two inches thick … were buried in the sand and weighted down with the piles of rocks, and then set at an angle, leaning inward to the building. The roof was framed so that boards would fit partly on top of each other, overlapping all the way down. The builders were careful to start the roof boards from the southeast end of the building so that the wind had no force over the slope of the building. There were two holes towards each end of the building, at the north and south ends, for smoke to go through.”

George paints a picture of a house designed and created to be respectful to cultural traditions as well as being climatically appropriate and environmentally smart. These were homes that paid tribute to the region and culture, but at the same time were able to withstand the unique rainforest climatic conditions such as those found in Clayoquot Sound and the surrounding area. These homes took into account cultural traditions of accommodating multiple generations of families under one roof without sacrificing space.

Watch report on CBC’s The National

The Green and Culturally Appropriate Building Design Project aims to account for and support cultural traditions which worked so well for hundreds of years. We are working to create much-needed safe and comfortable homes, combining best practices and technologies with a respect for cultural needs, while still addressing current circumstances.

A necessary change

Why the need for this?

  • Weathering the climate: Nuu-chah-nulth communities are located in a temperate rainforest, which brings with it unique, rainy conditions. Many of the existing homes have not weathered this well, and are in dire need of replacement.
  • Climate change: Climate change projections show warmer, wetter winters, which will serve to increase problems of humidity and mould. Housing adaptation strategies are now more necessary than ever.
  • Housing statistics: Existing housing stock is under enormous pressure from a growing population. Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation populations have doubled in the last 10 years, but the housing supply has not grown with it.
  • Staying power: Indigenous peoples are deeply connected to place and committed to staying in their terri-tories. Homes that have equal staying power are required. Currently, poorly built homes last only around seven to 15 years where, really, 100-year homes are needed.
  • Recognizing health and wealth of tradition: There is an increasing resurgence of interest and belief in heritage and cultural knowledge and practices. By embracing their language, histories and traditions, the Nuu-chah-nulth have facilitated an awareness of past building methodologies.

Issues in existing housing this project hopes to address include water ingress and drainage; mould, mildew, fungus and air quality; crowded rooms and privacy issues; affordability; support for use of local materials and labour; and a deep cultural rootedness that sees families desiring to stay together and age in place. An important opportunity exists to smartly plan community growth with buildings suited for climate and culture, and respectful of both environment and community well-being.

Project goals

The project aims to engage the community and gather meaningful knowledge, concerns and observations from those who will actually be living in the homes. Our desire is not to impose standard housing solutions, but to listen to and learn from the community. In this way, we will derive a wish list that is unique and respectful to their community needs, their heritage and their territories. It will also support the use of local materials and labour. We are working with the Nuu-chah-nulth people to:

  • Design culturally relevant homes and other community buildings;
  • Ensure the design addresses energy efficiency, climatic conditions and affordability;
  • Support the region in implementing the design into their local policies and planning;
  • Identify innovative approaches to financing the construction of these homes;
  • Build capacities and partnerships that will support this vision.

Our approach

To achieve the vision of a green and culturally appropriate building design, created by and for the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, our work takes the following approach:

  • Discovery: Information and ideas gleaned in interviews with members of the communities.
  • Learning: Taking into account learnings from the past, from elders and local experts.
  • Appropriate building science: Working together to create comfortable shelters that recognize the importance of health and safety.
  • Green design: Respecting natural concepts, local resources and low-tech solutions.
  • Visioning: Increasing community awareness of how housing impacts their well-being and that of the regional economy.

Future solutions

An outcome of this project will be a prototype home-design, including working drawings.

  • The prototype design will be simple and flexible, allowing for expansion as a family requires. The roof will be pitched to overcome excessive rainfall issues, it will also be oriented to good solar exposure and aspect. This will also allow occupants opportunities to take advantage of passive green solutions such as solar water heating.
  • The home will be 1.5 to 2 storeys tall to encourage indoor air to circulate within. Cross ventilation will be a basic requirement for all rooms where layouts permit.
  • The home will be raised a couple of feet off the ground for further climatic  adaptability, but with easy access to the main floor.
  • The use of wood, a natural and time tested building material which is a good source of carbon sequestration, is promoted.
  • Wood will be obtained from local sources, such as the First Nations-owned, Forest Stewardship Council®-certified, Iisaak Forest Resources mill.


  • UBC School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture
  • ISIS, Sauder School of Business, UBC
  • David Wong, Architect
  • Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations: Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Toquaht, Yuutu?it?aht, Hesquiaht



We are deeply grateful to the Real Estate Foundation of BC. Their support has served as the cornerstone for this process.

We also thank the following organizations for funding many of the summary reports that accompanied this work:

Community support

This project has already created much excitement in the region. We have been in discussions with two Nuu-chah-nulth families who have agreed to invest in building these model homes. Several others have also expressed interest in making this vision a reality.