The late Keith Mitchell leaves behind a legacy of exceptional commitment to community service

Photo: Keith Mitchell, QC, BC Achievement Founding Chair

Keith Mitchell, QC served as the BC Achievement Foundation’s Founding Chair and guiding light for 13 years. A leader by example and a mentor at heart, Keith brought clarity to the role of the foundation in its mission to celebrate excellence in British Columbia.

“We all remember with great affection and respect our founding Chair Keith Mitchell, QC, in whose honour the BC Achievement Foundation launched the Mitchell Award of Distinction, given annually to one of the Community Award recipients.” Anne Giardini, OC, OBC, QC, Chair, BC Achievement Board.

Keith passed away on October 26, 2021, and his legacy continues through the annual Mitchell Award of Distinction designation, established in 2017, as part of the Community Award program. The designation recognizes an individual who, through his or her work and volunteer activities, demonstrates an exceptional commitment to elevating the community in which they live, and those who serve it. The recipient has a unique and selfless leadership style that encourages and inspires the full participation of those he or she leads. Five outstanding leaders have received the Mitchell Award designation to date: George Laverock 2017, Kim van der Woerd 2018, Ellen Woodsworth 2019, Dom Bautista 2020, and Amber Anderson 2021.

Photo: 2021 Mitchell Awardee, Amber Anderson C.C.C.

Chef Amber Anderson’s accomplishments in establishing a culinary training school and café for those living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with the Hope Action Values Ethics (HAVE) Culinary Training Society have had a huge impact on the community.

Since 2007 Amber has successfully led the society – a non-profit, registered charity and social enterprise that provides food service job training and work opportunities to all individuals who experience barriers to employment. Using food to help people, to build a community has been part of Amber’s life for more than 20 years. Her distinctive style creates an equal playing field for all who engage with HAVE. Inclusion drives her instruction and her ability to build people up, support and help them defines the intent of the Mitchell Award which signals out those whose leadership empowers others. 

Amber is a dedicated leader, and we look forward to watching her contributions over the years to come.

The 2022 Community Award is accepting nominations until January 31, 2022. Nominate a deserving individual and help elevate excellence, share success and inspire change. #nominatenowbc

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.   

British Columbia Reconciliation Award nominations close January 15

Photo: 2021 Crabtree McLennan Artist, Cole Speck, Reconciliation paddle

Following the successful inaugural offering of the 2021 British Columbia Reconciliation Award, BC Achievement, in partnership with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, launched the second British Columbia Reconciliation Award program with nominations open from November 15, 2021 until January 15, 2022.

The inaugural 2020 program received an outstanding province-wide response reflecting the remarkable contributions so many British Columbians are making toward reconciliation.

The recipients of the first British Columbia Reconciliation Award were honoured for demonstrating exceptional leadership, integrity, respect, and commitment to furthering reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the province of British Columbia, or inspired others to continue reconciliation efforts.

Individual Recipients:

Dawn Drummond
Xele’milh-Doris Paul
Corey Payette
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Dr. David Suzuki
Corporal Christopher Voller

Organization Recipients:

Carrier Sekani Family Services
Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast
xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ (Many Ways of Doing the Same Thing) Research Team

“Being part of establishing the reconciliation award program and serving on the inaugural selection committee has been heartwarming and empowering. Reviewing all the nominations has shown me the power of reconciliation and how it can change people and community’s lives for the better. It shows we can live together and achieve great things if there are willing people working towards a vision of reconciliation.”
BC Achievement Board Member Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers

The British Columbia Reconciliation Award draws inspiration from the work of the Honourable Steven Point [Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl], OBC 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and a founder of the Award. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, currently on display at the BC Legislature buildings, was created as a symbol of reconciliation, with the understanding that “we are all in the same canoe” and must “paddle together” to move forward. In honour of this legacy, this year’s recipients received a framed print of a canoe paddle painted by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Cole Speck.

Nominations for the 2022 British Columbia Reconciliation Award are open until January 15 at #nominatenowbc

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.   

Exceptional leaders for BC communities

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Balbir Gurm

It was an eventful year in British Columbia, to say the least. With fires, floods, discovery of the unmarked graves, the overdose crisis and the persistence of the pandemic, it’s been challenging to see the good bits of 2021.

But there have been good bits! Really good things have happened in this province because of the generosity, support and resilience of the people who live here.

The helpers,
the heroes,
the dedicated volunteers,
role models,
champions for the underserved,
fearless advocates,
the quintessentially good neighbours; and
the innovative changemakers in reconciliation.

These folks stand out because of their exceptional service and leadership to people in their communities.

In 2021 BC Achievement was honoured to receive many nominations for such people for both the British Columbia Reconciliation Award and the Community Award. And through these nominations, we were pleased to present 25 individuals or pairs with the Community Award, including Balbir Gurm, a nursing professor and founder of NEVR – Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships. A role model and champion for women, Balbir Gurm advocates for violence prevention, helping break down cultural and gender barriers.

We were impressed with the response to the British Columbia Reconciliation Award, receiving nominations for individuals and organizations who have stepped up to create unique and respectful ways to furthering the Principles of Reconciliation. Six individuals and three organizations were bestowed the inaugural Award recognition in 2021. One of the recipients, Dr. David Suzuki, is world-renowned environmentalist who has spent a lifetime advancing reconciliation. Through his foundation, he has formed partnerships through shared insights of science and traditional knowledge, resulting in successes like the preservation of the Great Bear Rain Forest.

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Dr. David Suzuki

There are so many more passionate British Columbians whose actions make a positive difference for those who live and work here. This year let’s recognize these changemakers for their dedication and nominate them for either the Community Award or the British Columbia Reconciliation Award. Deadlines are coming up – January 15 at midnight for the British Columbia Reconciliation Award and January 31 at midnight for the Community Award. #nominatenowbc

Nomination forms, tips, and award program information can be found at British Columbia Reconciliation Award and Community Award pages on

We hope to hear from you soon!

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.   

A message from The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia

Photo: Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, The Honourable Janet Austin, OBC

Hello friends, I’m Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and today I’m inviting you to nominate a deserving British Columbian for a 2022 Community Award

As I connect with British Columbians throughout our province, I’m constantly inspired by the many people who generously serve their communities in diverse ways; as volunteers as community leaders or during times of crisis and emergency. 

We all know of outstanding citizens in our own communities who provide leadership for local organizations and keep services running through volunteering, fundraising and advocacy.  

Photo: (left) Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, The Honourable Janet Austin, OBC and (right) 2019 Mitchell Awardee, Ellen Woodsworth

Over the past year we’ve also seen countless examples of local heroes and helpers who have stepped up in response to the summer’s heat dome event and forest fires, and in the wake of the floods that have devastated communities and destroyed critical infrastructure. These are people who made and served meals to flood victims, who opened their homes to evacuees, who assisted with the cleanup of debris such as fallen trees, drywall and mould, or who volunteered their technical skills to identify issues on roads or assist with hazard mapping. 

The 2022 Community Award will provide an opportunity to recognize up to 25 of these outstanding citizens. If you know of someone who makes your community stronger, richer, more compassionate and more healthy, please consider nominating them for a 2022 Award.  

Nominations are open from December 1 until January 31 at 

Nominate Now BC! 

To watch the full video, click here. 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.    

ACHIEVEMENT: Strength, Courage and Skill

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Elijah Mack, Kekuli Cafe Merritt

Achievement is defined as strength, courage and skill – and each BC Achievement awardee embodies this in their respective lives. As we consider the year (and its many challenges) soon to be behind us, our awardees are leading the way far beyond their award recognition and contributions to building stronger more engaged communities. 

In the recent trials faced by BC communities ravaged by flood, the example of the 2021 Indigenous Business Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Elijah Mack of Kekuli Cafe Merritt rings true as he demonstrates his strength, his courage and his skill assisting others. Relocated to a hotel in Kamloops due to the catastrophic flooding in Merritt, Elijah figured out ways to serve food to those in need producing sandwiches, chili and hosting a taco fundraiser to support his community. In a recent interview with CBC’s Matt Gallaway, Elijah shared his platform of ‘unity in the community’ and that giving back is and always has been part of his DNA. As he contemplates the devastation in Merritt and returning to the city to help rebuild, he explains, “I hate when my family is hurting, and Merritt is my family”. Thank you for inspiring us Elijah and we can’t wait to see where your community faith and entrepreneurial spirit will take you next. 

It’s good to take the time to pause and consider the privilege BC Achievement has elevating stories of excellence throughout the province. These stories tell us the best of BC and implore and inspire all of us to follow the lead of awardees showcased within each of the foundation’s five programs. 

After each independent jury deliberation, the foundation team is tasked with reaching out to awardees and sharing the wonderful news of their selection. What a perk! As we work together toward the program’s recognition phase and learn about the awardee on a personal level, we are always amazed at the breadth of the awardee’s commitment.  

We salute all the 2021 Awardees for the richness they bring to their community and thank them for their passionate strength, their indomitable courage and their exceptional skill. BC Achievement is grateful to share their stories and inspire change.  

In gratitude, all of us at BC Achievement wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.    

Reconciliation fuelled by collaboration – Dawn Drummond

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Dawn Drummond

In spring of 2021 Dawn Drummond was awarded the inaugural Reconciliation Award for her exceptional leadership and commitment to furthering reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in BC. As the Regional Manager, Indigenous Relations in the Southern Interior with the Ministry of Transportation (MoTi), Dawn has built trusting relationships with regional Indigenous communities based on two-way dialogue, honesty and mutual respect.  

Her collaborative approach has resulted in more meaningful consultation, mitigation and accommodation outcomes due to a deeper understanding of MoTi project impacts on Indigenous communities.  

As she reflects on her work, Dawn is clear that “Reconciliation is not about words, it’s about action.” Throughout the course of her career, Dawn has come to understand that the actions required for reconciliation can take many forms: the action to complete and honour commitments, to understand the unique history and stories of a community, and to appreciate culture and traditional language. But most important, Dawn stresses, is the action of not giving up. Perseverance goes hand-in-hand with trust and vulnerability on the many steps of the reconciliation journey.  

Dawn’s earliest awareness of the concept of reconciliation and how it might be applied to her work came after the completion of her first fully executed reconciliation highway agreement with an Indigenous community. At the signing ceremony, she was gifted a drum and was asked to learn a Secwepemc song to play at the gathering. Dawn was overcome with emotion at what she and the community had accomplished working together. The experience brought new purpose to her work and spurred her to start down a path dedicated to resolving historical reconciliation agreements, with continued advocacy for change, innovative solutions, and a commitment to keep coming back to a community even when the discussions are challenging.   

It’s Dawn’s hope that evolving mindfulness will shape the future of MoTi and chart a positive path forward inclusive of everyone. “The innovation and creativity that I bring to the table for negotiations is successful,” Dawn says, “because of collaboration with communities. Each community is unique in what they are looking to achieve and what works for one community may not work for another. It’s my job to listen and understand how my work can help resolve immediate issues [but] also contribute to the community as a whole.”

As an example, Dawn and the Williams Lake First Nation collaborated on alternative procurement language for a project that included a minimum value committed for Indigenous economic opportunities. The alternative language was successful and has since that time been used for other projects. “I’m proud that we developed this language,” Dawn says, “and that my colleagues and executive were supportive to try a different approach. This established a path to provide more economic opportunities within highway projects for other First Nation communities.”  

BC Reconciliation Award juror Chief Sophie Pierre was also struck by this element of Dawn’s work: “Dawn is an outstanding example of an individual doing a job exceptionally well. She’s acknowledged by the First Nations she serves and described as someone who gets things done. What a great model she provides for other ministries to follow.”  

“I’m truly humbled to be recognized for my work through this award,” Dawn says. “It’s an honour to work with a community and their leadership. I appreciate their willingness to not only work with me but to get to know each other and share moments in our lives.” Dawn is quick to reiterate that reconciliation is not easy. The work required to understand historical grievances and find a way to collaborate with each community in setting a path forward is immense. But with these collaborations comes the power of meaningful, genuine connection, and wonderful friendships too. “I love travelling to communities,” Dawn says, “sharing a meal, having a laugh, and then getting down to business.” 

Dawn believes in the significance of receiving an award honouring reconciliation work and its champions. “Reconciliation is not easy, and it is a journey of many steps. It requires vulnerability, trust, and perseverance. Being able to celebrate reconciliation achievements around the province and offer examples of the reconciliation journey in progress is the significance of this award.” 

The British Columbia Reconciliation Award is now in its second year, and invites your nominations of individuals, groups and organizations that advance reconciliation in this province. Nominations are open now at until January 15, 2022. #nominatenowbc 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.

Showcasing BC Achievement Awardees – #shoplocalbc

Photo: Janaki Larsen, pink plates tableware

One of the many perks of honouring the province’s innovative businesses and artists, is the opportunity to see the work they create. From the Indigenous Business Award to the Carter Wosk Award in Applied Art + Design to the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art, there are a number of inspiring businesses that leave us wanting more! 

And now is the perfect time of the year to support a local business or artist and surprise a loved one with a gift made with passion and excellence. Check out these gift ideas from 2021 BC Achievement award alumni: 

Carter Wosk Award Applied Art + Design 

Janaki Larsen – creates graceful bowls, plates and vases that reconnect users with the physicality of their world 

Nick Purcell – makes bespoke furniture that focuses on good design for discerning clients 

Elen Danielle – uses old-world techniques and her interpretation of goldwork embroidery to create wearable works of art 

Photo: Dean Hunt, silver H’lulu (Butterfly) & Skull bracelet

Fulmer Award First Nations Art 

Crystal Behn – Dene & Carrier bead artist who uses her art to create accessories and Mukluks

Dean Hunt – a multi-talented Heiltsuk carver, jewellery designer and painter. A storyteller, Dean often depicts narrative scenes on his jewellery
Shawn Karpes – ‘Namgis First Nations carver from Alert Bay who sells limited pieces throughout galleries in BC
Stan Bevan – an established carver of Tahltan-Tlingit and Tsimshian ancestry, Stan’s carvings and woodcut prints are found in major collections and available at select galleries

Photo: Sisters Sage, soap bars

Indigenous Business Award 

Sisters Sage – soaps, bath bombs, salves, and smokeless smudge sprays pay homage to their ancestral teachings and combine traditional with non-traditional scents  

Indigenous Corporate Training – offers training for workplaces to work effectively with Indigenous peoples. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussions on generations of Indigenous Peoples, authored by ICT owner Bob Joseph – buy it today and check out the sequel Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality 

Thunderbird RV Park & Cottage Resort – book a stay at one of the 95 fully serviced RV sites or the one four cozy cottages and enjoy amazing views  

And there are many more award-winning artists and businesses to check out at

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.    

Communities where we care for each other

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Jane Jae Kyung Shin

This province is home to incredibly generous people who take the time to be dedicated volunteers, or who lead community programs that serve others, or who step up during times of emergency.

We’ve all seen recent examples of these heroes and helpers during BC’s recent floods and mudslides that trapped people on inaccessible highways or forced them to evacuate entire cities and reserves. The people that stepped in to make meals and hired helicopters to deliver it to the occupants of the trapped cars on the highway showed incredible compassion. There were volunteer pilots who delivered relief supplies to flood-ravaged communities. There were friends, families and strangers who opened up their homes to provide shelter to those escaping the flood. And there were emergency service personnel who went beyond their duties to help people to safety. In such times of need is when we see so many helpers and we are in awe of the mobilization of good will.

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Kal Dosanjh

But it’s also in times of stability that we see the efforts of those outstanding citizens who spend years supporting their local organizations, showing up to volunteer time and again. Who lead fundraising efforts for their local hospital foundation, who tirelessly advocate for the underserved, who dream of and execute social justice campaigns, who lead beach clean-up crews. There are so many everyday heroes who go unrecognized because we get used to them continuously being there and always leading the charge. It’s time to recognize them for their community achievement and inspire the next generation!

If you know someone who makes a positive difference in your community, a person who works to make your community strong, compassionate, and vibrant, nominate them for the 2022 Community Award. Now in its 19th year, BC Achievement’s annual Community Award program celebrates the spirit, dedication and outstanding contributions of British Columbians. Join us in telling the remarkable stories of our great province and its peoples, and inspire others.

Nominations open at December 1 – January 31 #nominatenowbc

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.

How IBA entrepreneurs are helping build economic strength & cultural resurgence

The Indigenous Business Award (IBA) program serves as a platform elevating and fostering Indigenous entrepreneurship. The program plays a key role showcasing Indigenous businesses success which helps to empower youth and generate cultural resurgence while building significant socio-economic opportunities across the province.  

“Winning this award highlights the vision and gives an avenue for young people – they can be successful at anything they want to do.  Keep working at it, having the vision and, at the same time, looking after Mother Earth and making it healthier.” Ken Cameron, 2021 Award of Distinction laureate, Indigenous Business Award. 

Since its launch in 2008, the IBA program has honoured and shared the impact of over 200 businesses all part of a strong alumni of mentors and ambassadors throughout the province. The program continues to support and nurture a growing economy of Indigenous entrepreneurs as reflected in the 2021 IBA program recipients. Awardee films can be viewed here to get a sense of the innovation and success of these businesses. 

As IBA Award of Distinction laureate, 2020 Carol Anne Hilton stated: 

“[The IBA] awardees reflect the achievements of Indigenous Business in BC. Their efforts are accelerating the Indigenous economy. In doing so they are improving lives, fueling economic growth, furthering reconciliation, and providing a growing young workforce with opportunity. Success breeds success and recognizing Indigenous organizations builds awareness of Indigenous leadership, models a path for others, and inspires further success.  This is Indigenomics in action. This leadership contributes to the possibility that a 100 billion-dollar Indigenous annual economy can happen by 2024.”

The 2021 Indigenous Business Awardees serve as examples of resilience and innovation during a tumultuous year and each entrepreneur delivers a message of hope and optimism for the future. With their tenacity and hard work, Indigenous businesses will continue to be a driving force in British Columbia. Join BC Achievement in sharing these models of success and inspiring change. The awardees are: 

Young Entrepreneur of the Year:  
Elijah Mack-Stirling – Kekuli Cafe Merritt 
Kekuli Cafe Merritt is listed as one of the best places to eat in town, providing a traditional Indigenous ambience while reflecting the owners’ passion for cooking and creating a space where all are welcomed and acknowledged. 

Business of the Year – one-to-two person enterprise:  
Sisters Sage, Vancouver
Sisters Sage is an Indigenous brand that handcrafts wellness and self-care products inspired by the owners’ culture and traditions.  

Business of the Year – three-to-ten person enterprise:  
Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., Port Coquitlam 
Indigenous Corporate Training helps thousands of people and organizations every year build informed, effective, and respectful relationships with Indigenous Peoples and communities. 

Business of the Year – 11+ person enterprise:  
Tsawwassen Shuttles Inc., Tsawwassen 
Tsawwassen Shuttles Inc. first started offering marine services for environmental and fisheries research. The business has since evolved to meet the growing demands of the market providing a wide range of land and marine charters. 

Community-Owned Business of the Year – one entity:  
Thunderbird RV Park & Cottage Resort, Campbell River 
Thunderbird RV Park and Cottage Resort, operated by Wei Wai Kum Nation at for over 40 years, provides year-round accommodations with 95 fully serviced RV sites and four beautifully appointed cottages. 

Community-Owned Business of the Year – two or more entities:
Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Economic Development Corporation, Prince Rupert 
The Gitmaxmak‘ay Nisga’a Economic Development Corporation (GNEDC) is a non-profit organization responsible for delivering language and culture revitalization programs for the approximately 1600 Nisga’a citizens living in Prince Rupert.  

Business Partnership of the Year:  
Salish Seas LP, North Vancouver
Salish Seas LP focuses on the management of commercial fishing licenses and the marketing of high-quality seafood products operating both in and for the three partnering Nations:  the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Tla’amin Nations. 

Award of Distinction for Lifetime Achievement: 
Ken Cameron, Moberly Lake 
Ken Cameron is the former Chief of the Saulteau First Nations.  From the beginning of his entrepreneurial ventures, to his role as Chief, Ken has led important initiatives in business, clean energy, wildlife preservation, government regulatory policies and community health. 

Congratulations to the 2021 Indigenous Business Awardees! Watch their short films at 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.   

Crystal Behn, Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist for the Fulmer Award

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Crystal Behn, I Am My Father’s Daughter, moose hide purse

This year’s Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist designation in First Nations Art was presented to Crystal Behn, an artist of Dene and Carrier ancestry, for demonstrating excellence in the early phase of her career.  

Crystal, an artist from Fort Nelson First Nation, learned the art of beading, moccasin making and traditional harvesting as an adult. When her mother passed away, Crystal realized the beading tradition her mother had engaged in had to be carried on, so she took it upon herself to learn the art and her culture from her grandmother. But first she made sure she was addiction-free  so she could start focusing on her art and her culture under her grandmother’s direction. “I was over there as much as I could, absorbing as much culture and tradition as I could. She was always encouraging me and giving me the opportunity to learn.” 

“I learned a lot in a short period of time. I sat with my grandma every day on the couch, beading. It was such an honour to sit there and have that time with my grandma because now she’s gone,” Crystal says in her interview with CBC’s Sheryl MacKay. 

And now, Crystal is passing on her teachings to her own seven-year-old daughter. “Teaching her is one of the most important things to me. Seeing my daughter pick up beads and knowing she’s going to keep it going is the most amazing feeling.” 

2021 Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist – Crystal Behn

Crystal started out with traditional works including moccasins and mukluks and has now expanded to making headbands, purses and clothing, always trying to incorporate new ideas. Crystal uses as many different natural materials as possible including hand smoked moose hide, moose antler, porcupine quills, glass stones, caribou hair, fish scales, birchbark and beads.  

Working with these materials gives Crystal an important connection to the land and reflects her commitment to honouring the process that goes into creating the hide from hunt to finished art piece.  

Whatever she can envision, she makes and that pushes her to keep creating and passing on her traditions. She is now teaching others as the Indigenous Programmer at Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, where she works on small projects with the community. Crystal is one to watch as she continues her beading journey. See her work on social media at IG: @InherFootstepsdenedesigns or on FB: @InHerFootsteps AuthenticDeneDesigns 

The Crabtree McLennan designation aims to support, mentor and highlight emerging talent. It is named in honour of Emily Carr University Director, Aboriginal Programs, Brenda Crabtree and the UBC Museum of Anthropology’s Curator Emeritus, Bill McLennan. 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.