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Three Aboriginal Leaders Named to CCAB Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame

by NationTalk on January 23, 20071385 Views

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Victor Buffalo, Harry Cook and Garfield Flowers Honoured for Lifetime Achievements

Toronto, January 22, 2007 — The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) today announced that Chief Victor Buffalo of Hobbema, AB, Mr. Harry Cook of Lac La Ronge, SK and Mr. Garfield Flowers of Hopedale, NL are being honoured for their lifetime contribution to Aboriginal business in Canada as the third group of laureates to be named to the CCAB Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame (ABHF).

Mr. Buffalo, 62, Chief of Alberta’s Samson Cree First Nation, was the long-time Chair of the Board of Peace Hills Trust, Canada’s first and still largest Aboriginal-owned financial institution, with assets on the order of $400 million. He remains a member of the Peace Hills executive committee.Mr. Cook, 64, former Chief of the Lac La Ronge First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, was also President of Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership. Kitsaki owns or manages 14 companies engaged in everything from trucking to catering, forestry to hotels, and exports of locally-grown wild rice. Kitsaki does about $70 million a year in business and has some 450 full-time employees.

Mr. Flowers, 66, President of Northland Enterprises of Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador, is an entrepreneur who has started, owned and operated numerous successful businesses in his tiny northern Labrador community over the past four decades. He also served on the local council or as mayor for 27 years.

Previous laureates, named in 2005, were Dr. Billy “Chief” Diamond, a northern Québec Cree and Mr. Irvin Goodon, a Métis from Boissevain, MB and, in 2006, Mr. Fred Carmichael, a Gwich’in from the Northwest Territories and Madame Suzanne Rochon-Burnett, a Métis from Ontario.

The Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame is sponsored by ESS Support Services, a division of Compass Group Canada. The Hall was created by CCAB in 2004 to mark their 20th year of operations.

The ABHF selection committee, chaired by Mr. Peter Godsoe, former Chairman and CEO of Scotiabank, met recently in Toronto to consider the 2006/07 nominations.

“The large number of highly qualified nominees from right across the country we have to consider every year continues to amaze us,” said Mr. Godsoe. “It is never easy to narrow down the choices from so many outstanding individuals, but after much discussion and reflection, we decided Victor, Harry and Garfield stood out from the rest of the field this year,” he said.

“This year’s laureates are all remarkable businesspeople and distinguished Canadians. Their stories deserve to be better known by everyone,” said CCAB President and CEO Jocelyne Soulodre. “They provide a special inspiration to the many Aboriginal Canadians who are playing an increasingly vital role in the economy.”

“We know these names well,” said Jack MacDonald CEO of Compass Group Canada. “ESS and Compass Group work all across Canada and we have applauded the growth in the strength and sophistication of Aboriginal business over the last few decades,” he said. “We think honouring businesspeople of such stature is long overdue and we are proud to be helping to spread the word.”

In addition to paying tribute to outstanding business leaders of the past and the present, the Hall serves as an example of excellence for young Aboriginal people thinking about a career in business. The ABHF can be visited at the CCAB website at www.ccab.com/leaders.htm. Pages devoted to Chief Buffalo and Messrs. Cook and Flowers will be posted following the induction ceremony.

The ceremony will take place on Tuesday, February 13 at the ninth annual CCAB Circle for 2015 Annual Gala Dinner at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. The dinner, highlighting the successes of Canadian Aboriginal business, is sold out. Over 450 senior Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal business leaders will be attending.

ESS, a division of Compass Group Canada, is the market leader in providing complete camp services to operations in remote and offshore locations, wherever their location may be, no matter how extreme the environment may be. ESS employs nearly 1000 associates in 136 operating units across Canada.

CCAB is Canada’s leading organization dedicated to promoting the full participation of Aboriginal communities in the Canadian economy. CCAB’s mission is to connect Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and companies with the opportunities they require to achieve personal and business success. Find out more at www.ccab.com.

N.B. – Biographical notes on this year’s laureates follow.

For more information:

CCAB:
Jocelyne Soulodre – 416-961-8663 ext. 235 jsoulodre@ccab.com

ESS Support Services:
Brenda Brown 905-568-4636 ext. 418 brenda.brown@compass-canada.com

Backgrounder
2006 – 2007 CCAB Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Laureates

Chief Victor Buffalo

Victor Buffalo has spent the last 30 years getting the Samson Cree ready to return to greatness.

Born in 1941 in Hobbema, Alberta, a desperately poor village on a neglected Indian reserve south of Edmonton, Victor was the first of the eight children.

At the age of seven he was forced into the same Catholic residential school his parents had attended. He joined the cadet corps and took military training – he says the discipline he learned has served him well. He qualified as a chemical technologist at 23.

He worked as a chemist for several years before marrying his wife Rema in 1966. They eventually moved back to Hobbema where Victor worked as a Land Administrator.

The reserve he came back to had changed dramatically. Hobbema was smack in the middle of the oil patch. As the price of oil rose and the band negotiated a better deal on royalties from government in the 1970’s the Samson Nation decided to start a financial institution to look after their own money. Victor voted against the idea because he didn’t think there were enough Aboriginal people qualified to run it. But he was put in charge of the project. Peace Hills Trust opened its doors in 1981.

In 1980 he set up the Samson Education Trust Fund to help pay for post-secondary education for members of his Nation. Now, after 25 years, 70% of Peace Hill Trust’s 180 employees are Aboriginal and there are many native faces on the board of directors. It has assets in the order of $400 million.

In 2005, Victor won a lawsuit against the Crown and the Samson Cree gained control of $340 million of their oil and gas revenues. He placed the money in a trust fund called Kisoniyaminaw (that’s Cree for Our Money), to be held for the benefit of all present and future generations of Samson members.

Harry Cook

Harry Cook is a world class entrepreneur, but not for his own account. He built his businesses for his community.

He was born in 1943 in Stanley Mission in northern Saskatchewan. Harry trapped and fished with his parents until he was sent to residential school at the age of nine.

As a teenager he realized that his parents’ traditional way of life was disappearing, so Harry went to Prince Albert for high school and then trained as a welder in Saskatoon. He spent 13 years at an aluminum and steel manufacturing plant in Regina – the last three as foreman.

In 1967 he married Rosie, also from Stanley Mission, and they started a family. Their life in Regina was comfortable, but they both missed their home up north. They moved back to Lac La Ronge in 1978, where Harry took a job as housing coordinator for the band. He was elected to council in 1983.

His remarkable 18-year run as Chief started in 1987. As Chief, Harry was President of the Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership which had been set up to allow the band council to finance their business ventures. Harry was one of the first Aboriginals in Canada appointed to a blue-chip business board. In 1992, he was invited to join the board of Cameco Corporation, the world’s largest uranium producer, a position he still holds.

Despite the fact that the area’s resources are relatively undeveloped, under Harry’s leadership the businesses grew and prospered until, by 2005 when he retired, Kitsaki owned or managed 14 companies engaged in everything from trucking to catering, forestry to hotels, and large-scale exports of locally-grown wild rice. It does about $70 million a year in business and has some 450 full-time employees.

Garfield Flowers

Garfield Flowers has built a thriving commercial empire on the desolate coast of Labrador using little more than his own ambition and talent.

Garfield, a Labrador Inuit, was born in 1940 at Sango Bay as the first of six children. The family moved to Flowers Bay when Garfield was a baby and then to Hopedale when the US Air Force set up a radar station there in the early ‘50s. He attended residential schools in Labrador. In 1961 he married Sylvia and they soon started a family.

Garfield took the big step of running his own show in 1969, when he won a contract to run the local weather station. He started a few businesses on the side – like road construction and selling candy – while he was running the weather station.

In 1982 he bought a building from the now-abandoned radar station, moved it into town and turned it into a general store, bringing in hundreds of items never before seen in Hopedale.

He set up Northland Enterprises as a holding company for his activities. He became a brewer’s agent and started a bar. He opened a garage and set up a construction company. The local post office is in one of his buildings and he is the biggest landlord in town. He convinced the phone company to bring service to Hopedale in 1966. He owns most of the heavy equipment in town.

While running all of his businesses, Garfield also served Hopedale as a councilor and mayor for 27 years. At one time he employed 34 local people, which in a town like Hopedale – population 600 – is like a couple of thousand jobs in a big city.

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