David Edward Sharpe, financial services entrepreneur, lawyer, philanthropist (born 27 December 1965 in Toronto, ON). David Sharpe is CEO of Bridging Finance, a private investment management firm. Bridging Finance is one of the few alternative financing companies in Canada that funds First Nations and Inuit infrastructure projects. Sharpe is Mohawk and a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (Tyendinaga). He is active in projects across Canada that support Indigenous students and communities. These include several initiatives at his alma mater, Queen’s University.
David Sharpe was born in Toronto, Ontario. He is Mohawk and a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. Also called Tyendinaga, the community lies between Belleville and Napanee, Ontario. (See also Reserves in Ontario.) Sharpe’s family moved to Toronto to find work, but he spent much of his summers in the Tyendinaga area with his grandparents. He was very close with his grandmother. In a 2019 interview with Queen’s Alumni Review, Sharpe recalls cherishing her generosity, kindness and wisdom. But he adds that it was a complex bond because “her generation was made to feel ashamed for being Indian, and I felt plagued with that in some ways.”
Education and Early Career
David Sharpe was a talented hockey player but did not want to pursue a pro career. A hockey agent suggested a career in law, which he had not considered. Sharpe helped coach varsity hockey while completing a BA at the University of Guelph. After graduating in 1992, he enrolled in law at Queen’s University. The summer before he began at Queen’s, although not required, he volunteered as a mentor and attended the Program of Legal Studies for Native People at the University of Saskatchewan. The program prepares Indigenous students for law school.
Sharpe finished law school in 1995. He went on to earn a master’s degree in securities law from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2000. In 2004, he completed a Master of Business Administration at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University.
Sharpe has had a successful career in the financial services industry. He has been general counsel and chief risk officer for leading financial organizations. He was also the head of investigations for the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada.
When Sharpe started working in finance, he did not tell people he was Indigenous, thinking it would hurt his chances of success. But he eventually realized that hiding his identity would not change perceptions of First Nations people. Sharpe, who feels “as comfortable in a sweat lodge as I do in a boardroom,” opted for another approach. He decided that showing leadership in this area would help increase First Nations representation at major companies.
David Sharpe’s wife and business partner, Natasha, founded Bridging Finance in 2012 and served as its CEO. David was its president and chief operating officer. The company offers alternative financing (loans) to small- and medium-sized businesses. Analternative financing company is one that lends money outside the traditional banking system. Bridging Finance isone of the only lenders of its kind in Canada to work with First Nations and Inuit on infrastructureprojects. Infrastructure, in this context, means facilities that are essential to the life of a community. “We saw the need for these loans for Aboriginal communities,” Sharpe told the Queen’s Alumni Review. “They are making a big differencein people’s lives.”
On 15 December 2016, Sharpe was appointed CEO of Bridging Finance. Natasha Sharpe remained as chief investment officer and a board member.
As of August 2019, Bridging had loaned more than $300 million to Indigenous communities to finance renewable energy, housing, grocery stores and fisheries. In addition, as of August 2019, Bridging managed approximately $1.6 billion in assets.
Involvement with Queen’s University
David Sharpe has worked with his alma mater, Queen’s University, to increase access to higher education for Indigenous students. He believes that education and economic development will improve conditions for First Nations. (See also Education of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)
In 2017, Sharpe donated $50,000 to create The David Sharpe Indigenous Law Student Award at Queen’s.
Sharpe is the alumni ambassador for Indigenous student recruitment and is vice-chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council at Queen’s Faculty of Law. He has also taught a First Nations negotiation law course.
In 2018, Sharpe was appointed a member of Queen’s Board of Trustees.
Sharpe donated $250,000 to Queen’s University in 2019 to fund the Indigenous Knowledge Initiative. The three-year program brings Indigenous knowledge and wisdom to the university. It also promotes connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars.
David Sharpe has strong connections to Indigenous causes across Canada. He is a past chair of First Nations University of Canada in Regina.He also sat on the board of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto and is on the board of the economic development corporation for Eabametoong (Fort Hope) First Nation in Ontario.
Sharpe has a registered charity called The Sharpe Indigenous Charitable Foundation. It advances education on the situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada, provides bursaries to Indigenous students in need of financial support and relieves poverty among Indigenous individuals and families.
In addition, Sharpe sits on the board of directors for Historica Canada, publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia.