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Aboriginal Business Lifetime Achievement Award

About the Award

CCAB and ESS Support Services Worldwide, a division of Compass Group Canada, are proud to present the Aboriginal Business Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award honours Indigenous business leaders who have built full and rich careers.  It pays tribute to outstanding Indigenous businesspeople across the country who are well-advanced in their careers and have built a legacy that serves as an example of excellence. CCAB encourages nominations from all First Nations (Status and Non-Status), Métis and Inuit business professionals.

Eligibility Criteria


Nominees have a history of excellence in the conduct of their business. Their careers, both in their corporate life and in the community, reflect entrepreneurial and leadership skills, vision, determination, and perseverance.  Laureates of the Aboriginal Business Lifetime Achievement award are distinguished Indigenous businesspeople who are well advanced in their successful careers.


Nominees are known for their contributions to the development of their community.  Setting an example for others to follow can be as important as holding a formal leadership position.  Nominees enjoy broad community support because of the impact of their business activities. They are catalysts for change in their community.


Nominees have contributed to the expansion of knowledge and capacity.  Embracing new technologies while remaining committed to traditional ways is an important part of sustainable development.  Nominees have the vision to challenge accepted wisdom and move beyond it, and the commitment to give their employees meaningful training and education opportunities.


Nominees have contributed in a substantive way to the economic well-being of their community.  Their results are identifiable and measurable, and could include economic development, employment opportunities, sustained business growth, starting and maintaining new ventures, and creating options for the future.

Nominations for this award close on Friday, October 28th, 2022.


The Business Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented at the Central Canada Business Forum in Toronto on February 7, 2023. 

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

Founding and Exclusive Award Sponsor

Most Recent Winner


Robert Louie

Robert Louie, LL.B, OC, Hon. Dr LL.B, Hon. Fellow Okanagan College is the former Chief (24 years) of the Westbank First Nation (which is Self Governing), and has served on numerous Boards, Companies and Special Appointments with Government and private industry for over 30 years. He has extensive experience in real estate development and finance matters and has focused primarily on working for First Nations on land matters throughout Canada.  Over the 24-year span as Chief at Westbank First Nation, Robert was President/Director for 30 plus corporations which included construction, forestry, commercial/retail, residential, recreational, and institutional.

Robert is the Chairman of the First Nations Lands Advisory Board (30 years plus) and has been instrumental in getting First Nations into incremental self governance. Robert is also the Chairman/Director of Peace Hills Trust, which is the largest aboriginal financial institution in Canada. Robert is a Founding Director and is a shareholder in the Public Company – Decisive Dividends (DE) on TSX Venture, a Director of Ecora Engineering and Resource Group Ltd, Trustee and Chairman of Apartment Plus REIT, Director of DAXET Development Corporation (which is owned by T’Sou-ke Nation), and most recently has been appointed to the TC Energy Indigenous Advisory Council. Robert is also the owner of Indigenous World Winery and Distillery, Kelowna West Manufacturing Home Park and several other business endeavours.

Robert has participated on numerous boards and his special appointments include representing Canada at the World Indigenous Business Forum, where he networked with other leaders promoting Indigenous economic development and world trade. He has been the recipient of many awards and distinguished presentations including the prestigious Officer of the Order of Canada.

Past Winners



John Bernard

Discovering his love of computer technology early on, Mr. Bernard became one of the first Indigenous people in Canada to obtain a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineering certificate. In 1996, he founded the Indigenous informatics firm, Donna Cona, which continues to provide successful opportunities for Indigenous people in the high-tech industry. Mr. Bernard and his technical team were responsible for developing the technical architecture for the newly formed government of Nunavut. The project resulted in the first satellite-based infrastructure in the country and one of the few in the world.

In 2007, he realized his vision of returning to his home community, Madawaska Maliseet First Nation in New Brunswick, and started multiple ventures including Madawaska Entertainment Center and Grey Rock Casino and the Grey Rock Power Centre. His companies employ the largest number of band members in the region.

A fierce proponent of Indigenous education, he started the John Bernard scholarship in 1999 at Trent University open to Indigenous students studying technology and continues to provide assistance and guidance to this day.

Past Winners


Chief Terrance Paul, Membertou First Nation

For nearly 37 years, Chief Terrance Paul has been a driving force behind Membertou First Nation’s success. He has doubled the land base and increased the employment rate to nearly 80 percent. Membertou is one of the wealthiest Indigenous communities in the country.

His career began with the Boston Indian Council where he held positions including job placement officer, director of finance, and president. Returning home to Membertou, Chief Paul worked for the Mic Mac News in sales and advertising. He then joined the Membertou Band Council as economic development officer and progressed to band manager before he was elected chief in 1984.

His strong focus on education has led to graduation rates growing from 30 to 90 percent in Membertou. Chief Paul was recently part of the landmark $600-million education agreement for Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq youth with the government of Canada.

In 2017, Chief Paul was appointed to the Order of Canada. He is also an inductee of the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame and recipient of the Frank McKenna Leadership Award. He holds an honourary doctorate from Cape Breton University.

Chief Paul is the co-chair of the Nova Scotia Assembly of Mi’kmaq Chiefs, and holds significant portfolios, including fisheries and mining.


Brenda LaRose

With over 25 years of experience, Brenda LaRose leads executive search engagements across a broad range of industries and sectors throughout Canada and internationally. Ms. LaRose’s expertise and strong knowledge of governance and business allows her to work closely with boards and executive teams to assess and identify strategies to attract and retain the right leaders.

Before joining Leaders International, Ms. LaRose founded Higgins Executive Search and developed a national practice that is now recognized as a Canadian leader in the recruitment of diverse and Indigenous executives and board members.

Ms. LaRose serves as the past chair of the board of trustees for the Seven Oaks Hospital, the Wellness Institute, and the Seven Oaks Foundation and is their chair of the governance committee. She serves as a board member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s executive, human resources, and compensation committees. She is also a board member of Yukon’s airline, Air North, and is a founding member of Métis Infinity Investments LLP.

Ms. LaRose is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and a Certified Professional in Human Resources (CPHR). She is a graduate of the University of Manitoba and of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) from the Directors Education College of the Haskayne School of Business and is an active member of the ICD Manitoba chapter. In 2015, Ms. LaRose co-founded SheDay, an annual leadership and networking event specifically for women. SheDay 2018 had 1,500 attendees.

Ms. LaRose is a Métis Anishinaabe citizen, born in Winnipeg and raised in Regina. She recognizes her humble beginnings and is extremely grateful for her full and accomplished career. She is a proud wife, mother, and grandmother and shepherds her family with the culture and heritage from which she comes.


Harry Flaherty

Born and raised in Grise Fiord, Nunavut, Harry’s early years in Canada’s most northern civilian community helped develop a strong understanding of the importance of family, community and self-reliance.

“I’m reflective of the strength and perseverance I’ve gained from my parents, who were among the exiles transported to the North in the 1950’s in order to position Canada’s claim to the Arctic, and to recognize my grandfather Robert Flaherty who produced “Nanook of the North” he stated recently.

Harry moved to Iqaluit in 1975 to continue his High School education. It was during these first years in Iqaluit that Harry was exposed to the Mechanic trade with one of his part time jobs. It was through this early exposure to the Trades, and subsequent certification earned, that eventually saw Harry begin his career with the Government of the Northwest Territories in 1979.

Harry retired from his career with the public government in 1997 and began his new career with Qikiqtaaluk Corporation as lead on a major environmental remediation effort at Resolution Island under a multi-year agreement with Defense Canada. Harry’s emphasis on ensuring Inuit received significant career training and the resulting career development opportunities created a legacy that is still recognized today. At the end of this successful project, Harry’s efforts were recognized with the Indian and Northern Affaires Deputy Minister’s Pride and Recognition Award for Services Excellence.

It was soon after the conclusion of the Resolution Island project that Harry began his current position as President and CEO with Qikiqtaaluk Corporation. Working closely with QC’s Board of Directors, Harry’s effort has focused towards restructuring the corporation to reflect its long-term business objectives and positioning the corporation as a major participate across various sectors of Nunavut’s emerging economy.  As President and CEO, Harry continues to emphasize the importance of career development for Inuit and to focus on those opportunities that QC can provide leadership in creating economic development and improving self-reliance by building capacity within the 13 communities of the Qikiqtani region.

In addition to his duties with QC, as Interim President and CEO of Nunasi Corporation, Harry has been providing support and guidance over the past few years as the Corporation views its strategic restructuring in synergy with Nunavut’s three regional development corporations.

Although Harry has served on a number of Boards, volunteered with minor hockey and other community organizations over the years, nowadays – with his busy schedule- he most values the time he is able to spend with family and outdoors.


The late Dr. Herbert Belcourt

Respected Métis entrepreneur Herb Belcourt was the founder of several businesses including Belcourt Construction started in 1965, the third largest power-line company in Alberta that employed 265 in the field.  He was the author of Walking In The Woods: A Métis Journey  Published October 2006 by Brindle & Glass which topped the best seller list and was nominated for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction 2007 Alberta Literary Competition.

In 1971 Herb co-founded non-profit Canative Housing Corporation that rented to Métis people in Edmonton and Calgary, started  an Urban skills program in Edmonton for tenants, developed a Day Care Centre for their children– working in cooperation with preventive social services– and bought a bus for transporting women and children to these programs.  Herb actively worked as operations manager from 1991 to 2004. In 2006 he received the National Aboriginal Achievements Award for Housing.

In 2001 Herb with two fellow co-founders formed Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards a $13- million endowment with a mandate to support Métis students pursuing further education. To date  $17-million is in the endowment, and over 15 years $6- million has been given away to over 1,000 students in over 200 programs in every institution in Alberta.

Herb’s accolades include an Honourary Doctorate of Laws (University of Alberta, 2001), The Order of Athabasca University (2006), Investiture as a Member of the Order of Canada (2010) and an Honorary Diploma from NorQuest College (2014).


Chief Darcy Bear

Chief Bear has been widely-recognized for his economic, business and cultural achievements. He was a recipient of the Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan in 2005, he was named one of the “Ten Most Influential People” by Saskatchewan Business Magazine and was awarded the CANDO “Economic Developer of the Year” in 2006.In 2009, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations awarded Chief Bear the Circle of Honour Award for Community-Based First Nation  Business. In December 2011, Chief Bear received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the highest recognition given to residents  of the province. On January 25, 2012, Whitecap Dakota First Nation signed the Framework Agreement for Self Governance,  which kick-started Whitecap’s journey towards self-governance. On May 23, 2012, Chief Bear was honoured with the  prestigious Diamond Jubilee Medal, reflecting his commitment to service. In 2013, he was named an Inaugural Grandey  Leadership Honouree, and the City of Saskatoon also bestowed a municipal park in his honour. The 2014 Throne Speech in  the provincial Legislature recognized Chief Bear’s “progressive leadership.” Most recently, he was the recipient of an  Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Saskatchewan in the fall of 2014. Chief Bear was instrumental in developing a self-governing Land Code, which created a business-friendly environment on Whitecap lands, complete with a land tenure system, commercial infrastructure and a real-property tax law. Whitecap now serves as a national example of positive community development and heightened self-determination. To date there has been approximately $100 million in capital investment in the community and an unemployment rate reduction from 70 per cent to 5 per cent.


The late Mel E. Benson

Mel was president of Mel E. Benson Management Services Inc. a consulting firm working in various countries with a focus on First Nations/Corporate negotiations. Mel was also part owner of the private oil & gas company Tenax Energy Inc.

Retired from Exxon International, Mel was a director of Suncor Energy since 2000, serving on the compensation and environment, health and safety committees. Mel was also a Director of the Fort McKay Group of Companies and as a Director of Oilstone Energy Services, based in the USA.

A member of several charitable organizations, Mel took pride in himself on being active in his community. He had taken numerous leadership positions in this capacity, and was appointed to the advisory council for the Alberta Land Institute through the University of Alberta.

Mel was a member of Beaver Lake Cree Nation, located in northeastern Alberta.

Watch the Mel E. Benson vignette below:


William MacLeod

From the Cree Nation of Mistissini, Quebec, former President and CEO of Cree Construction and Development Company.


Jim Thunder

While leading his community of Buffalo Point First Nation as hereditary Chief for 30 years, Thunder transformed an empty land into a world-class vacation destination.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

Chief Commissioner and CEO of the First Nations Tax Commission.


Gregory Koostachin

An entrepreneur with 35 years of business leadership in his community Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario.

Dave Tuccaro

Founder, President and CEO of Tuccaro Group of Companies.


Chief Clarence Louie

Elected Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band since 1985 and employer of hundreds of people at Band owned businesses.

Ruth Williams

CEO of All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO) and has a 25 year history of leadership in social and economic development in the Aboriginal community.


Pita Aatami

President of Makivik Corporation and Chairman of First Air and Director of Air Inuit, both subsidiaries of the Makivik Corporation.

Mervin Dewasha

CEO of Neegan Burnside, an Aboriginal owned engineering firm and has been a leader in encouraging Aboriginal youth to pursue careers in science and engineering.


Jim Boucher

Chief of Fort McKay First Nation and Chairman of the Board of the Fort McKay Group of Companies.

Judith Sayers

Former Chief of the Hupacasath First Nation and current Co-Chair of the Island Corridor Foundation.


Nellie Cournoyea

Chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) and is a former Premier of the Northwest Territories.

Ron Jamieson

a Mohawk from Six Nations, Ontario, and former Senior Vice President of Aboriginal Banking at the Bank of Montreal.


Victor Buffalo

A Cree from Samson Cree First Nation, business leader and entrepreneur.

Harry Cook

Former Chief of Saskatchewan’s Lac La Range Indian Band First Nation, who oversaw the exceptional success of Kitsaki Development Corporation.

The Late Garfield Flowers

An Inuk from Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador.


Fred Carmichael

A Gwich’in from the Northwest Territories and Aboriginal aviation pioneer.

The late Suzanne Rochon-Burnett

A Métis from Ontario who founded the first Aboriginal owned radio station.


The late Dr. Billy “Chief’ Diamond

A northern Quebec Cree, and founder of Air Creebec.

Irvin Goodon

A Métis from Boissevain, Manitoba and founder of Canada’s largest post frame construction company.