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Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations

About the Award

The Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations Award recognizes an individual (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) who has contributed, through professional and voluntary commitments, to building bridges between Indigenous peoples and Canadian society. The award acknowledges the significant efforts of people who have been ambassadors working with Indigenous peoples and communities.

Eligibility Criteria


Nominees are people who question and confront the status quo when it comes to Indigenous relations in Canada. Their careers and lives reflect that they have the vision, determination, and the ability to create change. Nominees are never satisfied with things as they are, but always look to improve situations and outcomes for Indigenous peoples and build bridges between Canadian society and Indigenous communities.


Nominees are known for taking action once opportunities present themselves or are always looking to create opportunities for action. Setting an example for others to follow can be as important as holding a formal leadership position.  Nominees are catalysts for change.


Nominees have worked and partnered with government or business sectors to ensure the success of their projects. They achieve their goals by working with others. Nominees have the vision to challenge accepted wisdom but also the ability to change the perceptions of others


Nominees are known for their efforts toward reconciliation between Indigenous communities and Canadian society. Their contributions have a wide-ranging impact with implications both locally and nationally. The nominee has significant recognition for how they have contributed to the improvement of the lives of Indigenous peoples and their communities.

Nominations for 2024 are closed. The awards will be presented at the 40th Anniversary Award Gala, May 29, 2024.

Candidates are deemed ineligible if they have an existing formal relationship with CCAB (e.g. Board of Directors, CCAB Staff member, Award Sponsor, etc.)



Chief Dr. Robert Joseph

Chief Robert Joseph, O.B.C, O.C., is a peacebuilder who has devoted his life to promoting reconciliation among Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. A hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, he is a survivor of the residential school system and helped found Reconciliation Canada, for which he is now an ambassador.

Chief Joseph sits on the National Assembly of First Nations Elders Council and chairs the Native American Leadership Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation. He is also peace and reconciliation ambassador with the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IFWP), where he engages with international leaders to learn from and share his understanding of faith, hope, healing and reconciliation. His unwavering dedication to preserving Indigenous culture and heritage while promoting cross-cultural understanding has resonated with audiences worldwide, making him an ambassador for peace and understanding on the international stage.

Through his memoir “Namwayut,” Chief Robert Joseph shares a deeply personal story, encouraging for a brighter future for Canada and Indigenous communities. His tireless commitment serves as a testament to the transformative power of healing, and forgiveness. Chief Robert Joseph’s outstanding contributions in the realm of Aboriginal relations are rightfully celebrated, offering hope and inspiration for a future built on understanding, respect, and unity among all peoples. He holds many awards and honours, including SFU’s Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue as well as The Order of British Columbia and Order of Canada.



Dr. Marie Delorme

She is committed to diversity and inclusion. As she rose to the top tiers of the telecommunications industry, she led early initiatives to support the advancement of women and Indigenous employees. As CEO of the Imagination Group of Companies, she remains committed to cross-cultural economic development and the participation of Indigenous people in Canada’s economy.

Her current community work with the National Indigenous Economic Development Board has helped provide advice and guidance to the federal government on issues related to Indigenous economic opportunities that have enabled Indigenous peoples of Canada to have a voice in government policy. Since 2000, Dr. Delorme has consulted to almost 200 Indigenous Nations, corporate entities, and organizations, to federal and provincial governments, corporate Canada, and public, private, not for-profit, and charitable organizations. She has delivered more than 30 academic speeches nationally and internationally, and more than 90 business presentations in her career, which span industries and organizations.

Dr. Delorme’s continued work with the National Indigenous Economic Development Board, the Indigenous Advisory Committee for the Canadian Energy Regulator is just a small snapshot of what she is doing to support reconciliation efforts and make a difference in the lives of Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Delorme is a Member of the Order of Canada. She has received the Indspire Award in Business and Commerce; and was named as one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women. Other awards include: the University of Calgary Dr. Douglas Cardinal Award; Alberta Chamber of Commerce Business Award of Distinction; Calgary Chamber of Commerce Salute to Excellence Award, and Métis Nation Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.  Dr. Delorme holds a Bachelor of Science degree, a Master of Business Administration from Queen’s University, and both a PhD and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Calgary.


Cory Stephens

Cory Stephens is a commerce graduate of Gustafson School of Business at the University of Victoria. From there, he has dedicated his knowledge and expertise to bridging the gap between Indigenous entrepreneurs and the national business landscape respecting tradition and culture while encouraging connection and understanding with non-indigenous society.

Stephens’ mother is Tsimshian, step-father from Nisga’a territory and Stephens grew up in Prince Rupert, B.C., experiencing multiple communities and cultures that resulted in his personal vested interest in advancing Indigenous business relations and entrepreneurship.

After working with several Indigenous businesses and government trade organizations, Stephens founded Foot Print Consulting based in Prince Rupert, B.C.  Foot Print aimed to support the growth of Indigenous communities while preserving local traditions and customs.  He would develop a training and capacity program for Health Canada that would become a best practices model for Pacific Coast First Nations organizations. His work continued with the development of a First Nations’ economic development strategy and included identifying, researching and reporting on barriers to First Nations’ economic development and access to capital.

“Entrepreneurship, from a First Nation’s perspective, is often a strategic balance between community, culture and commerce,” said Stephens.

In 2013, Stephens was approached by the University of Victoria to join the newly created Indigenous Advancement of Cultural Entrepreneurship (I-ACE) program (formerly known as NW-ACE) aimed at teaching entrepreneurs start-up methodology. He became the Learning and Enhancement Officer and Program Manager for the Northwest. He has been recognized by peers for the “operational success” of the program and its many awards.

In the eight-year history of the program, there have been 40 cohorts of the program resulting in 564 graduates, 184 new businesses and 67 Indigenous communities served. Stephens continues to be a mentor to these budding entrepreneurs and businesspeople.


Keith McIntosh

As founder of PLATO Testing, the world’s first Indigenous-led and staffed software testing company, Keith McIntosh has introduced more than 85 corporations, over the last four years, to the value and capabilities of Indigenous people as technology professionals, and has helped to advance cultural awareness and understanding in boardrooms from Vancouver to Halifax and beyond. His goal in founding the company was to address two important issues: our country’s shortage of technology professionals and the high rates of unemployment among Indigenous youth.

“I am grateful to the CCAB for their support of PLATO, and know that together with our corporate and community partners across the country, we can reach our mission of creating a network of 1000 Indigenous software testers from coast to coast to coast.” – Keith McIntosh, Founder, PLATO Testing


Past Winners


Wayne Garnons-Williams

Wayne is Plains Cree from Treaty 6, Moosomin First Nation, the founding President of International Inter-tribal Trade Organization, an international NGO dedicated to educating on inherent indigenous economic rights as well as support and enhance the implementation of the global flow and exchange of Indigenous goods, services and investments through the coordinating of international Indigenous trade missions and conferences.  He is currently appointed to the board of directors of the International Council of the Great Lakes Region as well as a board member of Capacity Canada.  He is appointed by Federal Order in Council as a member to the NAFTA Chapter 19 Trade Remedies roster.

Wayne is a Senior Lawyer and Principal Director of the law firm Garwill Law Professional Corporation specializing in International Indigenous Trade, traditional knowledge law and Economic Development. Wayne has held various federal executive legal positions, including: Registrar of the Federal Court of Canada, Director of Service Coordination, Courts Administration Service of Canada and Director for Resolutions, Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada and closing out his public sector career as Deputy Head and Registrar of the Specific Claims Tribunal of Canada.

He has served as President of the National Council for Aboriginal Federal Employees. He is past Chair of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Appeal Tribunal.

In 2018 Wayne was made a Research Fellow specializing in International Comparative Indigenous law at the University of Oklahoma, College of Law. Wayne is currently halfway through his second graduate degree, a Master of Laws from the University of Oklahoma, College of Law and anticipates graduating in late 2020.


Carol Anne Hilton, MBA is the CEO and Founder of The Indigenomics Institute. Carol Anne is a recognized First Nation’s business leader with an international Masters Degree in Business Management (MBA) from the University of Hertfordshire, England. Carol Anne is of Nuu chah nulth descent from the Hesquiaht Nation on Vancouver Island.

Carol Anne was recently appointed as a senior advisor on the Canadian Federal Economic Growth Council. The Council advises the Federal Finance Minister Morneau on Canadian economic growth. Carol Anne was also recently appointed to the BC Economic Task Force advising the Ministry of Jobs, Trade, and Technology

Carol Anne is currently authoring ‘Indigenomics- a Global Power Shift’ Carol Anne has led the establishment of a line of thought called #indigenomics- building and developing local Indigenous economies.

Carol Anne’s work has been recognized with a BC Aboriginal Outstanding Business Achievement Award, a Creating Wealth Award from the National Indigenous Council of Elders and Business of the Year Award from the Nuu chah nulth Economic Development Corporation.

Carol Anne currently serves as Director on the McGill University Institute of the Study of Canada and the National Canadian Community Economic Development Network and is also serving as a juror on the Smart Cities Challenge. Carol Anne is an instructor at Simon Fraser University’s Community Economic Development Program and a faculty lead at the Banff Center’s Indigenous Business Program where she was also a Fleck Fellow.


Dr. Ken S. Coates

Ken Coates is Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public PolicyUniversity of Saskatchewan campus.  Ken was raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, and has long-standing professional and personal interests in Aboriginal rights, northern development, northern Canadian history, science, technology and society, and Japan Studies.

He received his BA (History) from UBC, MA (History) from Manitoba and PhD (History) from UBC.  Ken has had the distinct pleasure of working at universities across Canada and internationally, starting at Brandon University and continuing at the University of Victoria, and the University of Northern British Columbia (where he was the Founding Vice-President Academic).  He spent two years at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, an institution known globally for its work on Indigenous education.  Ken returned to Canada in 1997 to take a position as Dean of Arts at the University of New Brunswick at Saint John.  He then became Dean of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan, later serving as Dean of Arts, University of Waterloo.  He returned to Saskatchewan in 2012.

Ken has written extensively on Aboriginal history, Indigenous-newcomer relations and post-secondary education.  His first major work, Best Left as Indians, examined the history of the Yukon through the lens of Aboriginal-European contact.  His subsequent work includes The Marshall Decision and Aboriginal Rights in the Maritimes, Land of the Midnight Sun: A History of the Yukon and shortly, a co-authored book called Treaty Peoples: Aboriginal People and the Future of Canada.  He has published more than a dozen books with his regular co-author, Dr. W.R. Morrison, and has worked with Carin Holroyd on a series of projects related to science and technology in East Asia.  Ken’s co-authored book, Campus Confidential, offered an accessible review of the accomplishments and challenges of the post-secondary system in Canada and is being followed up by a book aimed at high school students and their parents about post-graduate opportunities.

Ken is currently working on a series of books, including a reflection on the significance of the Idle No More Movement, a study of the development of the Canadian Light Source (synchrotron) at the University of Saskatchewan, the first ever history of the Circumpolar sub-Arctic, and an examination of the over-expansion of the global university system.

Ken has worked with Aboriginal peoples and organizations and with government agencies responsible for Indigenous affairs across Canada and in New Zealand and Australia.  He assisted with Aboriginally-themed documentaries produced by Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon, assisted with land claims research and participated in a variety of national and international collaborations, including serving on the Research Advisory Committee of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.  He is the Director of the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development, which provides regionally-relevant research focused on northern Saskatchewan and delivers a community-based Masters program on Northern Governance and Development. He is the Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s research project on Aboriginal Peoples and the Natural Resource economy.

Ken appears regularly on television and radio, largely in association with his work on Aboriginal issues, northern Canada and post-secondary education.  His opinion pieces have been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada.

His wife, Carin Holroyd, is an Associate Professor of Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.  He has five children and six grandchildren.  Ken also assists Carin with her charity, the Vietnam Education Society, which builds schools for communities in rural Vietnam.



Senator Murray Sinclair

Senator Sinclair is being honoured for his distinguished record of public service and work leading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada. Before becoming Chair of the TRC, Murray Sinclair had a distinguished career as a lawyer and then Justice for the Queen’s Bench of Manitoba. He also was a co-commissioner of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, which studied the impact of the criminal justice on Aboriginal peoples in Manitoba and also conducted a six year inquiry into the deaths of 12 children that resulted in a study that led to changes in pediatric heart surgery in Canada. He has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Manitoba and was appointed to the Senate in 2016.


Willa Black
Vice-President, Corporate Affairs – Canada, Cisco

Willa Black’s leadership on the Connected North Program has served to bridge the Aboriginal digital divide through the use of networking technology. Connected North has been instrumental in increasing healthcare and educational capacity in remote and underserved Aboriginal communities across northern Canada. The initiative was inspired by a meeting in 2011 between Black and Mary Simon, herself an Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations winner, who at the time was President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The meeting helped to establish a clear direction for Black’s desire to create something “by Canadians and for Canadians” with Cisco’s technology at its heart

Award Sponsor


Mary Simon
O.C., O.Q.

Mary Simon has led an extraordinary career which has had Northern interests at its heart. Her achievements have been both global in scope and local in impact. Mary was Canada’s first Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, a lead negotiator for the creation of the Arctic Council and the former Canadian Ambassador to Denmark. She has worked tirelessly to promote the interests of northern communities on a wide range of issues including the environmental, social, cultural and political issues effecting the Inuit. Her accomplishments have been instrumental in building the vital partnerships and personal relationships that open the doors of business through education and participation on the national stage. She has played a vital role in building and strengthening the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians.


Phil Fontaine
O.C., O.M.

Phil Fontaine is a dedicated and highly respected figure in Canada. He has been instrumental in facilitating change and advancement for First Nations people from the time he was first elected to public office as Chief, at the young age of 28. He is a proud member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba and still plays an active role in the support of his community. Continue reading bio.


Eric P. Newell

Eric P. Newell, O.C. set a trend for working with the Aboriginal community through his leadership of Imperial Oil and Syncrude. His leadership of Syncrude helped them to not only become a major player in the oil industry but also helped them to develop policies that reflected leading practices in corporate social responsibility; becoming one of the largest industrial employers of Aboriginal people in Canada. Newell’s personal life has also made great contributions to education and training, donating money to the University of Alberta to construct the Aboriginal Gathering Place and advocating for greater educational opportunities for Aboriginal people.



The Right Honourable Paul Martin

The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business is pleased to announce that the Right Honourable Paul Martin, the twenty-first Prime Minister of Canada (2003 – 2006), was selected as the inaugural recipient for the Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations.

Mr. Martin was selected for this enduring commitment to the prosperity of Aboriginal communities and the award’s selection committee highlighted Mr. Martin’s work since his retirement from public life.