Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller said he had "immense concern" after allegations surfaced of mismanagement and self-dealing at Bridging Finance Inc., a Toronto-based lender that catered to First Nations communities. 

"Making sure that Indigenous communities reach and close socio-economic gaps is key and part of that is full participation and eyes wide open in economic development. Obviously, it's a concern throughout the pandemic: communities that have fought tooth and nail for their own source of revenue have seen a huge hit," Miller said late Tuesday during a press conference on improving Indigenous education in Quebec.  

"Whenever there is a concern about misappropriation, or things that have happened that include financial loss, it is of immense concern to me and it's something that we, as a government, inevitably have to make sure that we step in."

An Ontario Superior Court judge appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. to manage Bridging Finance's affairs on Friday at the request of the Ontario Securities Commission amid allegations that the firm's CEO, David Sharpe, misappropriated investor funds and failed to disclose conflicts of interest. None of the allegations against Bridging or Sharpe have been proven in court. Sharpe didn't immediately return a request for comment. 

Bridging Finance manages about $2 billion in loans geared mostly to small and midsize companies that need between $3 million and $50 million in additional capital. Under Bridging Finance, Sharpe, who is a status Indian and a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, launched a fund dedicated to financing Indigenous economic development. 

Miller didn't immediately provide a comment when asked if he or the ministry actively reviewed all of the OSC’s allegations against Bridging Finance and Sharpe, and whether the firm ever met with the minister or his staff. A query in the government's lobby registry failed to turn up any reports showing that Sharpe or his colleagues at Bridging Finance met with officials in Ottawa.