Supporting Indigenous learners during Financial Literacy Month

November marks Financial Literacy Month (FLM), an initiative launched by numerous community groups, non-profits and government bodies to help improve Canadians’ financial literacy skills.

One of the many groups making an impact on the financial literacy skills of Canadians is the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society. Since 1963, the Centre has been supporting urban Indigenous people through quality programs and services, including housing, employment, family support and counselling. They recently ran the Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples financial literacy program.

Chantel Michell, Employment, Life Skills & Training Coordinator at Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, works on the employment program at the Centre. Her job readiness program offers nine weeks of employment, life skills and training programs for Indigenous adults seeking employment, with a focus on those who are homeless or living in shelters. Michell thought that a financial literacy component would be a great addition to the overall program, and was eager to sign up to run a free workshop.

“I thought financial literacy would be an important skill for our clients who would be entering the workforce, as they would need to start budgeting and managing their money once they get a job,” she says. “With many of our clients in shelters or transitional housing, these kinds of skills can help them to better budget to afford rent.”

Michell ran all four Money Matters workshops, which focus on the key topics of: Spending Plans, Banking Basics, Borrowing Money and Ways to Save. Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples is designed to reflect the realities of Indigenous communities in Canada. The workbooks were recently updated in partnership with members of the Indigenous community and include curriculum and activities that align with Indigenous learner experiences. They use a trauma-informed approach to learning framed around the 4 Rs: respect, reciprocity, responsibility, relevance.

“Our learners found the content very useful and they learned a lot from the program. It was particularly interesting for them to learn about building credit and getting a credit score, as many of them didn’t realize credit was important for getting housing, nor did they know how to get access to their credit score.”

Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society was also matched up with two volunteer practitioners from TD Bank for each workshop. TD Bank Group is the founding sponsor of the Money Matters program through the TD Ready Commitment.

“The TD volunteers were really knowledgeable and whenever the clients had questions, they were really helpful and respectful, says Michell. “One participant was in debt so she asked what her next steps should be and one of the volunteers suggested she go to credit counselling, which was good advice.”

Aidan Jeffrey was one of the volunteers from TD Bank that volunteered with Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society. As a Mohawk himself, he was specifically seeking out ways to give back to the Indigenous community, and thought this program was a great opportunity. The intern has spent three consecutive summers at TD Bank and previously worked in Indigenous Trust, building trust funds for First Nations.

Jeffrey volunteered at three of the four workshops and was really pleased with the engagement from the learners. He said they asked great questions about investing, saving and loans, and wants to do more workshops in the future.

“I really enjoyed using my position in asset management to share the information I have learned by working at the bank,” he says. “I definitely recommend volunteering, and even though it can be a bit nerve-racking to start, once you’re in the workshop you realize that everyone is there to learn and it’s an easygoing environment.”

For more information about Money Matters or to sign up to host a free workshop, visit