Grand Challenges Canada

$2.5 million of new seed investments in 10 innovation projects to advance Indigenous gender equality, in partnership with Women and Gender Equality Canada

Toronto, May 5, 2021—The Indigenous Innovation Initiative—an Indigenous innovation platform hosted by Grand Challenges Canada—is proud to announce the inaugural grant recipients for its Advancing Indigenous Gender Equality through Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program. Ten projects, from across the country, are receiving a total of $2.5 million CAD ($250,000 each) to advance Indigenous gender equality across health, economic and social dimensions through transformative innovation and systemic change by and/or for First Nation, Inuit and Metis women, Two Spirit, queer and gender-diverse individuals.

“Investments to seed and scale Indigenous innovation are essential in order to address the systemic and discriminatory barriers faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs to access the resources they need to start their businesses and begin to build sustainable intergenerational wealth for our communities,” said Sara Wolfe, Director of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative. “But supporting Indigenous innovation is about more than just increasing access to capital. Culturally rooted wrap-around supports, including specialized coaching and venture advisors, will help to unlock their fullest potential. Indigenous innovation must be part of a federal Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic recovery strategy.”

Wolfe added: “Innovation isn’t just about creating new things. Innovation sometimes involves looking back to our traditional ways and re-conceptualizing them within a modern context. Our vision is to improve all life through Indigenous innovation—for people and the Land. Supporting Indigenous innovation is possibly one of the strongest models we have for how to leave something useful for the next generation.”

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, added: “The Government of Canada established the Equality Fund in 2019. A new financing tool to advance women’s rights and gender equality, the fund included $300M to support grassroots women’s organizations around the world, and $30M to support women and equity seeking organizations here in Canada. Grand Challenges Canada received $10M, and today, we celebrate the results of this investment. Despite a challenging year, they have met their $1M match fundraising target for this year and the projects announced today will benefit Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The Government of Canada has increased funds to equity seeking groups, which save and transform millions of lives each year. In addition to the first 10 innovators that are being announced, the platform supports an Indigenous team, engages with Indigenous leaders, including the six leaders on the Indigenous Innovation Council, and works with Indigenous lead businesses to support fundraising, communications, and governance and strategy development. We thank them for their care and essential work.”

Jocelyn Mackie, Grand Challenges Canada’s Co-CEO, further added: “It’s clear that the Indigenous Innovation Initiative is filling a funding and support gap for innovators. The response to the Round 1 call for applications was impressive; 238 eligible applications were received from every province and territory—a first at Grand Challenges Canada. We are humbled and proud to host the Indigenous Innovation Initiative. We look forward to welcoming new funding partners to more meaningfully support innovation by and for First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples for generations to come.”

Round 1 innovators

The 10 selected projects will create impact across diverse areas, such as pre- & post-natal health, sustainable beauty, human sex trafficking & sex exploitation and food sovereignty & sustainability.

Cheakamus Foundation for Environmental Learning (Squamish Territory, British Columbia)
Project: Building for a Greener Future Together

Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc. (St. Catharines, Ontario)
Project: Indigenous Sustainable Packaging Solutions from the Natural World

Clan Mothers Healing Village (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Project: Clan Mothers Healing Village and Knowledge Centre Social Enterprise

Hiit’aGan.iina Kuuyas Naay/Skidegate Youth Centre and Innonative (Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia)
Project: Haida Gwaii Media Collective

Iskwew Air (Musqueam Territory, British Columbia)
Project: Advanced Air Mobility Phase 1

MUSKRAT Magazine (Wasauksing First Nation, Ontario)
Project: Spirit of Birth Indigenous pregnancy and parenting app

Sus Loo Ltd. (Victoria, British Columbia)
Project: The Sage Initiative, to build a new generation of social impact investors

Kim Wheatley and Amber Sandy (Shawanaga and Dokis First Nations, Ontario)
Project: Reclaiming Ancestral Harvesting Practices

Yukon Soaps Company (Mayo, Yukon)
Project: Dan K’ehte Natsedan (Learning Our People’s Way)

Anonymous innovator
Project: Development of a one-year seed education course to provide skills and teachings on each step of the seed-to-seed cycle.

We all play a role in Indigenous innovation

To ensure we can meet the needs of Indigenous Peoples, this initiative is deeply rooted in Indigenous values and wisdoms and built on a foundation of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. To do this right, we draw on the guidance of the Indigenous Innovation Council, made up of remarkable Indigenous leaders, Elders and Knowledge Keepers with a strong commitment to community engagement and co-creation.

The Indigenous Innovation Initiative would like to acknowledge the invaluable financial contribution of Women and Gender Equality Canada and the University Health Network to this gender equality program, as well as foundational support from Indigenous Services Canada, the McConnell Foundation, Johnson & Johnson and the RBC Foundation.

About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation—known as Integrated Innovation®.

One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,300 innovations in 106 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.78 million lives and improve up to 64 million lives by 2030.


For more information, please contact:

Douglas Chow, Senior Manager, Communications
Grand Challenges Canada