Photo: Design from Indigenous artist and Arts Umbrella Board member James Harry (Nexw’Kalus)
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, on September 30, serves as a stark reminder of the injustices faced by Indigenous people, especially in residential schools. It is a significant step toward healing and reconciliation, while raising awareness about the lasting effects of residential schools and colonization on Indigenous peoples throughout the country.
Orange Shirt Day originated from residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad’s personal experience. A member of the Stswecem’c Xget’tem First Nation and survivor of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, Phyllis has shared her story widely as the founder and ambassador of Orange Shirt Day. Her childhood experience of having a cherished orange shirt stripped from her symbolizes the broader suffering of Indigenous children whose identities and cultures were stripped away through the residential school system and underlines the resulting intergenerational trauma experienced by survivors.
Awareness helps educate all Canadians about the history and impact of residential schools. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation allows collective reflection on past injustices, while Orange Shirt Day emphasizes individual experiences and emotional trauma. Both promote compassion by fostering dialogue and collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, nurturing empathy, understanding, and unity.
And most importantly, September 30 is a call for action. It challenges governments, institutions, and individuals to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, address disparities in healthcare, education, and justice, and respect Indigenous rights and sovereignty.
Here’s how individuals can actively support and participate in meaningful observances:
Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about the history of residential schools and the experiences of Indigenous peoples. Read books, watch documentaries, and engage with Indigenous literature and art to gain a deeper understanding.
Listen and Learn: Engage in open, empathetic conversations with Indigenous friends, family members, or community members. Their perspectives and experiences are invaluable in fostering understanding.
Wear an Orange Shirt: On Orange Shirt Day, wear an orange shirt as a symbol of your commitment to reconciliation and raising awareness about the impacts of residential schools. Encourage others to do the same.
Participate in Local Events: Attend local events, ceremonies, or gatherings organized by Indigenous communities or advocacy groups. These events provide an opportunity to listen, learn, and show support.
Teach Others: Share your knowledge and understanding with friends and family. Encourage them to participate in conversations and events related to reconciliation.
Support Indigenous Businesses: Seek out and support Indigenous-owned businesses and artists. This can help strengthen Indigenous communities and economies.
Advocate for Change: Support policies and initiatives aimed at addressing disparities in healthcare, education, and justice for Indigenous peoples. Advocate for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
Read the TRC Report: Familiarize yourself with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and its 94 Calls to Action. Hold government officials accountable for progress on these recommendations.
Donate to Indigenous Organizations: Contribute to Indigenous-led organizations and charities working towards reconciliation, healing, and supporting Indigenous communities.
Reflect and Self-Examine: Take a moment to reflect on your own biases and privilege. Be open to personal growth and actively challenge stereotypes and prejudices.
Create Safe Spaces: Foster inclusive and safe spaces where Indigenous voices are heard and respected. Promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace, school, or community.
Participate Year-Round: While these observances have designated days, reconciliation is a year-round commitment. Continue to engage in these actions and conversations beyond these specific dates.
Watch BC Achievement’s short films: Peruse the treasury of short films produced by BC Achievement highlighting the accomplishments of BC’s First Nations artists and Indigenous entrepreneurs. Find them on our YouTube channel.
BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.
Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs are celebrated for their transformative achievements
Vancouver, B.C. (September 12, 2023): The BC Achievement Foundation is honoured to announce the recipients of its 15th annual Indigenous Business Award (IBA) program. The award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of Indigenous businesses, entrepreneurs, partnership entities and community-owned enterprises. It is one of five programs led by BC Achievement, an independent foundation that honours excellence and inspires achievement throughout the province.
“Congratulations to the recipients of the 2023 Indigenous Business Award for exceptional entrepreneurship, outstanding contributions to the BC economy, and dedication to uplifting Indigenous communities through innovative endeavours,” says Walter Pela, Chair of the BC Achievement Foundation. “Your success serves as an inspiring example of the key role Indigenous businesses play within local communities, throughout the province, and beyond.”
Now in its 15th year, the Indigenous Business Award program shares remarkable stories of Indigenous business excellence – while setting an inspiring example for the next generation of entrepreneurs. In addition to providing an authentic space to showcase successes and drive change, the awards help build stronger connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous economies in the province. It counts over 220 business leaders within its alumni.
This year’s IBA theme is “Building Community.” The awardee selection was made by a jury panel that included Rhianna Millman, Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility Consultant, BC College of Nurses and Midwives and a member of Métis Nation BC; Ernie (Bones) George, CAO of Tsleil-Waututh Nation; and Jeff Ward, Ojibwe and Métis, founder and CEO of Animikii and a two-time IBA alumnus.
The recipients of the 2023 Indigenous Business Award will be recognized during a formal gala ceremony at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on Wednesday, November 1, 2023. The event is open to the public, and tickets can be purchased for $250 per person online here. Awardees will receive a certificate and medallion to honour their achievements and be celebrated through an online campaign, #shinethelightbc.
Interviews with representatives of the BC Achievement Foundation, as well as IBA recipients, are available upon request. A media kit, which includes awardee bios and high-resolution images, is available here.
For more information about the BC Achievement Foundation or Indigenous Business Award program, please visit www.bcachievement.com.
The IBA program is presented by the BC Achievement Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. It is generously supported by: Enbridge, Teck Resources Limited, TD, Vancity, Ovintiv, BC Hydro, BC Transit, CN,New Relationship Trust, Seaspan, Simpcw Resources Group, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, West Fraser, Dentons, Fortis BC, KPMG, Pacific Blue Cross, and TELUS.
About BC Achievement
BC Achievement is an independent foundation established in 2003 that celebrates the spirit of excellence in our province and serves to honour the best of British Columbia. In addition to the IBA, the organization presents several established programs, including the Polygon Award in First Nations Art and the Applied Art + Design Award. By recognizing the accomplishments of our province’s entrepreneurs, artists, community leaders, youth and volunteers, BC Achievement’s award programs pay tribute to exceptional people, doing exceptional work, while carving a path forward for others to follow. www.bcachievement.com
Young Entrepreneur of the Year The Ballantyne Project City: Maple Ridge
Dwight Ballantyne is the driving force behind The Ballantyne Project: a youth-led initiative bridging the awareness gap between Indigenous communities and the rest of Canada while sparking social consciousness. Growing up in challenging circumstances in a northern First Nation in Saskatchewan for 21 years, Dwight’s relocation to BC in 2016 opened his eyes to the widespread lack of knowledge about life on First Nations reserves.
Launched in 2019, The Ballantyne Project was driven by his wish to inspire Indigenous youth in remote First Nations to pursue dreams and share their stories. The #WeSeeYou campaign was initiated to amplify voices from remote communities, breaking the invisibility barrier. Initially the project partnered with other organizations to establish an Entrepreneurship Program and has since evolved to hosting Indigenous youth from remote Indigenous communities during a twice-annual, week-long #WeSeeYou trip to Vancouver for an educational and life experience opportunity as one of the initiatives of the #WeSeeYou campaign.
Despite pandemic disruptions, Dwight adapted by delivering virtual presentations to schools and organizations nationwide, using his personal life experiences to raise awareness. His authenticity and vulnerability in sharing his story proved transformative. Dwight envisions expanding The Ballantyne Project’s impact through employing Indigenous youth and collaborating with an ever-growing team. With unyielding commitment, Dwight plans to expand his outreach, fostering connections with diverse communities and organizations. His journey, from a remote community to a beacon of change, highlights the power of shared narratives in transforming societal perceptions.
Business of the Year: one-to-two person enterprise Daxgedim Haanak’ Nation Building City: Comox
Marcia Turner is an Indigenous leader focused on advocating for self-determination and self-government among Indigenous peoples across British Columbia and beyond. As CEO and founder of Daxgedim Haanak’ Nation Building, Marcia envisions a decolonized future where Indigenous peoples can freely embrace their culture and languages. She has a deep commitment and connection to her Gitxsan heritage as part of the Lax Gibuu (Wolf clan) and belongs to the Wilp Haijimsxw, House of Chief Haijimsxw.
With a mission that revolves around transformation and systems change at the governance and leadership levels, Marcia works alongside Indigenous communities to amplify their voices. Her goals encompass facilitating Nation re-building, revitalizing ancestral governance structures to re-incorporate matriarchs, advancing Indigenous rights and title, fostering Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships, while expanding her business with a team of Indigenous associates who share her vision of decolonial futures. Her journey began with small workshops on cultural safety and historical awareness from an Indigenous perspective. Over time, her business has evolved and grown significantly, showcasing her ability to collaborate with diverse organizations, governments, and educational institutions.
Hailed as a role model, Marcia is known for her efforts rooted in ancestral teachings and grounded in a rights-based framework. She focuses on creating sustainable, solutions-oriented impacts that resonate at the systemic level and underpin her commitment to meaningful change.
Business of the Year: three-to-ten person enterprise Totem Design House City: Courtenay
Totem Design House (TDH) stands as a trailblazing exemplar at the crossroads of Indigenous heritage and eco-conscious entrepreneurship. Founded in 2014 by Erin Brillon, an advocate for her Haida and Cree cultures, TDH has evolved from a modest start into a vibrant force. Rooted in Indigenous values, TDH is committed to crafting locally made, culturally authentic products that not only celebrate Northwest Coast art but also educate the wider world about Indigenous culture.
Erin’s commitment goes beyond commerce. As a social enterprise, TDH is dedicated to giving back to Indigenous communities. Through Copper Legacy Indigenous Empowerment Society, the company supports a range of projects and programs. TDH’s commitment to empowerment is evident in its exclusive employment of Indigenous staff and its focus on mentorship, with Erin taking a proactive role in coaching and supporting fellow Indigenous business owners.
By preserving cultural heritage, promoting eco-friendly practices, and empowering Indigenous communities, TDH stands as a beacon of responsible business practices. Erin’s visionary leadership and the team’s creative synergy have propelled TDH from a modest home-based enterprise to a dynamic and impactful force, leading the intersection of Indigenous art, environmentalism and socio-cultural empowerment.
Business of the Year: 11+ person enterprise Jelly Academy City: Fort Langley
Jelly Academy is a reskilling company specializing in equipping individuals with comprehensive digital marketing expertise. Its digital marketing curriculum features 11 industry recognized credentials, forming the bedrock for success in the digital arena. The academy’s flagship Digital Marketing bootcamp provides expert training in pivotal sectors such as SEO, social media, digital ads (Facebook, Instagram, Google), Google Analytics, Public Relations and Email Marketing. This program boasts a remarkable track record, with high graduation rates translating into successful career placements, driven by industry-experienced educators who offer insights and support beyond instruction.
Jelly Academy’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity is evident through its efforts in providing scholarships to over 100 Indigenous students, forging collaborations with Indigenous organizations, and empowering over 40 graduates from these communities. This commitment aligns with the academy’s broader mission to foster diversity within the tech and digital job sectors.
With expanding horizons, Jelly Academy has augmented its teaching team and diversified its course selection, while forging strategic alliances with influential Indigenous organizations and many more. As it forges ahead, Jelly Academy’s reskilling, diversity and excellence-focused approach is reshaping the digital landscape, paving the way for a more inclusive digital marketing industry.
Community-Owned Business of the Year – one entity Sugar Cane Archaeology City: Williams Lake
Sugar Cane Archaeology, wholly owned by the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), is a pioneering First Nations enterprise led by a dedicated team of project managers, archaeologists, and natural resource experts. The company specializes in heritage management and natural resource stewardship in British Columbia, with a distinct focus on responsible industry practices.
The core vision of Sugar Cane is to uphold and advance Indigenous cultural heritage stewardship within its traditional territory, while adhering to rigorous ethical principles. Its mission encompasses integrating Indigenous knowledge, perspectives, and practices into the consulting sector, enlightening industry partners about archaeology, cultural heritage, and fostering ethical conduct in workplaces.
Integral to Sugar Cane’s operations is an Indigenous employment strategy, which emphasizes recruiting from WLFN and neighbouring First Nations through community initiatives, job fairs, presentations, and engagement tactics. Under the stewardship of the WLFN, Sugar Cane has solidified its reputation in the Secwepemc/Central BC/Cariboo region through dynamic industry partnerships, resource development, and vital heritage management undertakings. Notably, Sugar Cane has engaged in significant projects such as the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School geophysical investigation, the Williams Lake River Valley 2020 Flooding Event, and the Cariboo Memorial Hospital Expansion project, as well as several pioneering Archaeological Inventory Surveys through the Cariboo.
Community-Owned Business of the Year – two or more entities Tiičma Enterprises City: Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations (KCFN) Village of Houpsitas
Tiičma Enterprises, a wholly owned economic development corporation of the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’les7et’h’ First Nations (KCFN), fosters a self-reliant community through diverse economic development ventures. KCFN Holdings LP Board of Directors provides governance oversight of the commercial projects, including management services, aggregates, forestry, fisheries, mariculture, tourism, hospitality, and retail. These ventures align with the community’s economic development plan, enhancing infrastructure, services, and the skills of KCFN citizens. Despite its small size, KCFN has made a significant impact through determined pursuit of economic stability, garnering praise from customers and forging successful partnerships across industries and around the world.
Since 2012, Tiičma Enterprises has seen impressive growth by responding to market demands through strategic planning, investments, and training. The Tiičma Hospitality LP is a prime example, expanding its tourism offerings by investing in upgraded facilities. These moves solidify its market presence and contribute to employment and training opportunities. KCFN’s commitment to capacity building and succession planning is evident in their focus on professional development, mentoring citizens into management roles and attracting distant community members with stable careers and supporting citizen entrepreneurship whether in partnership or via procurement. The Group of Businesses also collaborates through a roundtable, uniting First Nations, stakeholders, governments, and organizations to address key issues such as pandemic resilience, climate change, ecosystem restoration, and new economic prospects, all aimed at bolstering Kyuquot’s economies and resources.
Business Partnership of the Year Shxw’ōwhámél-LandSea Limited Partnership (SLLP) City: Hope
The Shxw’ōwhámél-LandSea Limited Partnership (SLLP)specializes in constructing and operating diverse workforce accommodations within the Shxw’ōwhámél traditional territory in Hope, BC. Its focus extends beyond providing basic shelter, aiming to ensure the well-being and productivity of on-site workers through quality living conditions and appealing food options. SLLP places paramount importance on environmental stewardship, striving to create economic opportunities for its community while fostering a sustainable future.
Established in 2019, the partnership has grown steadily, offering increased job opportunities while navigating the challenges of the COVID pandemic with resiliency and adaptable practices. A significant achievement was the completion of the $20M worker’s accommodation complex, Sqémél Lá:lém, providing temporary workforce housing in the territory while showcasing a dedication to Indigenous employment and community engagement. Notable project initiatives have included five Pre-Employment Hospitality Work Skills Training programs held for Indigenous community members, the integration of Indigenous language and art into the lodge name, logo, signage, and documentation, and other cultural programming such as site and meal blessing ceremonies. The project has further maintained an average of 36% Indigenous employment throughout its lifetime.
SLLP’s dedication has extended to substantial community contributions, donating annually for local initiatives, and providing construction assistance to Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation. Forward-thinking and driven by Indigenous values, SLLP’s projects are designed to impact its community. As an example, the Sqémél Lá:lém complex is poised to become a lasting housing development after the Trans Mountain expansion project’s conclusion.
Award of Distinction Teara Fraser City: Richmond
Teara Fraser, founder and CEO of Iskwew Air, embodies inspired leadership in every aspect of her life. Her remarkable path mirrors the resilience and tenacity defining Indigenous entrepreneurs. From her 2012 IBA recognition for Kîsik Aerial Survey Inc. to spearheading Canada’s first 100% Indigenous woman-owned airline, Teara shatters industry norms, empowering Indigenous women to overcome barriers and develop economic independence. In a bold move, Teara founded an aerotech venture, elibird aero, in January 2023, aiming to be one of Canada’s first all-electric flight training units spanning electric and hydrogen technologies, immersive flight and maintenance training, RPAS (remote piloted aircraft systems) and airspace integration, digital transformation, and battery infrastructure.
Teara’s industry leadership extends to improving access to remote Indigenous communities and promoting responsible land stewardship. Her efforts open doors of opportunity for Indigenous youth, dismantling traditional stereotypes and nurturing careers in aviation and entrepreneurship. Engaged for over a decade with the British Columbia Aviation Council and serving as a Board Director for Aerial Evolution formerly Unmanned Systems Canada, Teara’s influence extends further as she sits on the Board of Directors for the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. As a proud Métis woman, Teara is a bridge builder, igniting inspiration among the next generation of women through her work as the founder of the LIFT Collective while simultaneously empowering Indigenous communities worldwide. Her multifaceted leadership is a resounding testament to her commitment to fostering positive change.
Since 2006, the First Nations Art (FNA) award program has championed the intersection of art and culture, while simultaneously paying homage to First Nations artistic traditions. By celebrating both traditional and contemporary arts, the FNA program sets a stage where First Nations artists can shine, fostering genuine community engagement, mentorship, and the art of storytelling. The program serves as a powerful platform for the stories of artists to be told and heard while showcasing artistic excellence.
Program recipients will be honoured at an award presentation in front of their family members, friends, peers, and community. Four short films produced by BC Achievement will be premiered at this event unveiling each recipient’s artistic journey and achievements. The films live on the BC Achievement YouTube library, accessible to anyone who wants to learn and be inspired.
The exceptional art of each awardee is showcased in a week-long exhibit at The Roundhouse surrounding attendees with a welcoming space celebrating excellence.
The 2023 FNA award ceremony will include a formal sit-down dinner, along with the award ceremony and art exhibit. Featuring local and cultural food, the FNA award celebration will bring people together, sharing the artists’ unique perspectives with a wider audience, fostering dialogue, understanding, and appreciation.
The Polygon Award in First Nations Art Dinner and Award Presentation is a celebration of artistic brilliance, cultural heritage, and the enduring spirit of First Nations artists. The gathering is a testament to the ongoing journey of artistic expression and cultural preservation. The Polygon Award in First Nations Art program ensures that the stories and artistry of First Nations peoples continue to captivate and inspire generations to come.
Watch for the 2023 Awardee announcement in October!
BC Achievement is grateful for the generosity of Polygon Homes in supporting the First Nations Art Award program.
BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.
Photo: Stephanie Quon, 2023 Community Award recipient
As we celebrate the first two decades of honouring the citizens who build community in this province, BC Achievement is pleased to announce a new category saluting youth who are leading the way. The Emerging Leader designation – launching in 2024, will be part of the annual Community Award program.
The mission of BC Achievement is to elevate excellence to inspire achievement. The goal of this new designation will be to recognize and celebrate the strength, courage, and skill of young people who are making a difference in their communities and striving to make BC a better place.
This distinction will acknowledge the incredible dedication and unwavering efforts of young leaders. It will act as a beacon of motivation for the youth who dedicate their time and energy to making a difference.
The Emerging Leader designation will nurture a sense of accomplishment and self-worth amongst awardees, supporting the belief that their actions possess the potential to sculpt a positive transformation within their communities. Through this empowerment, a ripple effect transpires – one that resonates far beyond the initial act of service.
Photo: Baylie McKnight, 2022 Community Award recipient
Often fuelled by a selfless drive, these young changemakers embark on endeavours with little anticipation of recognition. Yet, when bestowed with an award, their commitment receives a well-deserved spotlight, igniting a fire of inspiration within them and inspiring others to follow suit.
And at a community level the Emerging Leader designation will inspire a culture of giving back, cultivating an ethos where the youth embrace their roles as active contributors to the common good.
The Emerging Leader designation will be a platform for the next generation of leaders to showcase their skills, share their stories, and inspire change. We are excited to embark on this new initiative.
The Community Award program provides an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the transformative efforts of individuals who raise the quality and character of their community and, in doing so, inspire others to do the same. BC Achievement is honoured to extend this recognition to the youth of this province.
Nominations for the Community Award and the Emerging Leader designation open December 1, 2023 at bcachievement.com.
BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.
Photo: Chief David Jimmie, Recipient, 2022 IBA Award of Distinction
Indigenous entrepreneurs who receive the IBA program’s award of distinction designation leave an indelible mark on their respective communities and contribute significantly to the broader province and its economic landscape.
“Hard work is what creates success. We need to teach our young people to understand that hard work will get you to where you want to be. Achievements are not the result of one person or work; they are the collective result of people working together. Behind every person being recognized for their achievements is a team”.
Chief David Jimmie, Recipient, 2022 IBA Award of Distinction
The IBA Award of Distinction recognizes outstanding achievement in Indigenous entrepreneurship in BC. The honour is presented to an individual who, over their career, has made a significant difference in the Indigenous business community through their entrepreneurial endeavours and, in doing so, serves as a leader, role model, mentor and inspiration. The individual may be an innovator in their business activities, a successful entrepreneur, or an individual who has been instrumental in supporting or creating Indigenous business activities in the province.
Candidates are appointed by the BC Achievement board of directors through consultation received from community input, jury feedback and online nominations. The 2023 Award of Distinction recipient will be named later this month, alongside the announcement presenting the seven awardees of the Indigenous Business Award in their various categories. These remarkable individuals embody resilience, innovation, and a deep connection to their cultural heritage, often infusing traditional wisdom into modern business practices.
Beyond their economic contributions, these entrepreneurs foster social empowerment by creating job opportunities, promoting skills development, and investing in community projects. The impact they have is far-reaching, extending beyond business to the cultural revitalization and self-determination of Indigenous peoples.
BC Achievement is honoured to salute the Award of Distinction alumni on the 15th anniversary of the IBA program and thank them for their leadership:
2022 Chief David Jimmie
2021 Ken Cameron
2020 Carol Anne Hilton
2019 Paulette Flamond
2018 Chief Gordon Planes
2017 Chief Gibby Jacob
2016 Chief Robert Louie
2015 James Walkus
2014 Councillor Garry Feschuk
2013 Chief Commissioner Sophie Pierre & Ruth Williams
2012 Chief Garry Reece
2011 Chief Councillor Louie
2010 Dolly (Watts) McRae & John Harper
2009 Dorothy Grant & Angelique Merasty Levac
The IBA program honours excellence and focuses on the successes of Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs.
Join hosts Geena Jackson and Chief David Jimmie on November 1 for the 15th annual IBA Gala Dinner and Presentation Ceremony at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and celebrate the 2023 Award of Distinction designate and the deserving awardees from around the province!
We are grateful at the BC Achievement Foundation to live, work and play on the unceded, ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəjˀəm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ(Tsleil Waututh) Nations.