Effecting change: David Sharpe
2017 ISSUE 1: INDIGENOUS ISSUES AND EXPERIENCES AT QUEEN’S
David Sharpe, Law’95, remembers what gave him his first push into the field of law. As a young man, he was playing high-level hockey and had yet to complete an undergraduate degree.
“I knew that pro hockey was something I did not want to seriously pursue and I was anxious to go to school, but I didn’t really know what to do with myself,” says Mr. Sharpe. “I was talking to hockey agent and Queen’s graduate Pat Morris at the time and he looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be a lawyer.’”
Mr. Sharpe remembers being a bit stunned. It never occurred to him that he could be a lawyer. “Pat told me I was smart enough, that I could do it.”
That conversation with Pat Morris, Law’85, changed the course of his life. Mr. Sharpe, whose father is from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Deseronto, Ont., says neither of his parents finished high school. Mr. Sharpe’s family moved to Toronto to find work, and growing up, he spent time in the summer in the Tyendinaga area with his grandparents and the rest of his time in Toronto.
“I am very close with my grandmother, and as a child, I especially cherished her service to others and her kindness – she was very wise,” he says. “But it was a complex relationship, too. Her generation was made to feel ashamed for being Indian, and I felt plagued with that in some ways, shame in being myself.”
Mr. Morris’ encouragement gave Mr. Sharpe the nudge he needed. He went on to complete a BA at the University of Guelph, assisting with coaching varsity hockey along the way. A few years later, he was thrilled when he received his acceptance to Queen’s Law, because of its reputation but also because he wanted to be close to Tyendinaga, to his grandmother.
Now – after adding an LLM in securities law from Osgoode Hall Law School and an MBA from Richard Ivey School of Business, along with two decades of experience in the Canadian financial services industry – he runs, alongside his wife, CEO Natasha Sharpe, a company called Bridging Finance. The firm provides small- and medium-sized North American companies with alternative financing options and is one of the only bridge lenders in Canada to First Nations and Inuit for infrastructure projects.
“We saw the need for these loans for Aboriginal communities. Because we can be quick and nimble about getting money into communities, the loans are game-changers. They are making a big difference in people’s lives.”
Most recently, Bridging Finance provided a loan to a 100 per cent Inuit-owned corporation in Nunavut for the purchase of a 64-metre arctic trawler, used to fish turbot and shrimp. It has also financed housing and elders’ apartments in northern Manitoba, a wind farm and hockey arena in communities in Quebec, and a grocery store in Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick. Mr. Sharpe is especially proud of this last project, because the store has been a goal of Elsipogtog for decades and is key to the social and economic development of the community.
“This was all community-driven and the store, a national chain with a pharmacy, will provide jobs and revenue for Elsipogtog.” Mr. Sharpe says Bridging Finance was able to provide the loan in a matter of weeks, and the store will be up and running in eight months.
“We’re committed to First Nations communities,” he says, of Bridging Finance. “It’s so important to get the money in quickly, especially because in many northern and remote places the season for construction is short. And if the money isn’t there, the community loses another year without the infrastructure.”
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