Murray B. Koffler, the founder of Shoppers Drug Mart and the co-founder of The Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts, and his associates were inspecting a partly completed Four Seasons Hotel in Calgary, Alberta in the spring of 1982. He was stunned to find a family huddled in the basement among the building materials. On inquiring, he learned that homeless Indigenous people was a common sight in Calgary. Later that same day, Mr. Koffler visited a local Shoppers Drug Mart, only to interrupt a security officer escorting a young Indigenous boy from the store after being suspected of shoplifting.
He couldn’t understand why a prosperous city allowed such devastating conditions to exist for its Indigenous citizens. These instances triggered Koffler to undertake some individual research on the Indigenous peoples of Canada. What he discovered set in motion a chain of events that would alter the landscape of business in Canada and give rise to Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.
For decades, corporate Canada had assumed that government was in control of the situation and therefore eschewed any responsibility for helping Indigenous people participate in the mainstream of this country’s commerce.
When Mr. Koffler returned home, he pulled people to his farm “Jokers Hill” in King, ON. He spent the day with several individuals holding a one-day think-tank. There was a group of original founders–an honorary Board of Governors who grew out of the 14-16 individuals who were there.
Prominent attendees included: Maurice Strong, Paul Martin and Edward Bronfman. The results of this think-tank was that business could be an important avenue to build skills and develop capacity for young people and adults. Furthermore, an organization like CCAB could educate businesses about Indigenous issues.
Since 1982, CCAB has been bridging the gap between the mainstream corporate sector and the Indigenous community. CCAB works to improve economic self-reliance of Indigenous communities, while assisting corporate businesses. It is the only non-profit organization working in this sector that receives no government funding, and also the only one to receive the endorsement of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce for our business-driven programs and services.