“We are very focused on the future, and we realize that we create this future by our actions. The single most important key to First Nation self-reliance is economic development.” – Chief Clarence Louie
The Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce announced this week that Chief Clarence Louie, one of the Globe and Mail’s 25 Transformational Canadians and Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band in British Columbia will be the keynote and special guest at this year’s Annual Gala Dinner to be held on November 14th at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Executive Director, Rhonda McCorriston was positive about this year’s dinner which will celebrate Aboriginal Achievement and will recognize the tremendous potential for collaboration and partnership that exists.
Rhonda pointed out that since 1984, when he first became Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band in British Columbia, Clarence Louie has consistently emphasized economic development as the fundamental method for improving the standard of living of his people. Under his direction, the Band has become a multi-faceted corporation that owns and manages numerous successful businesses. In addition to the businesses, the band is enjoying socio-economic development that is vastly improving the community’s social, educational and health needs.
Under his leadership, there is virtually zero unemployment.
Although economic development is the means to achieving self-sufficiency, Chief and Council continues to emphasize the importance of maintaining the Okanagan language and culture in all aspects of the band’s activities including business. The establishment of the Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre is a testament to this commitment of balancing business while celebrating culture. This eco-cultural centre provides visitors an opportunity to experience the Okanagan culture and explore the desert lands that are a part of their traditional territory. The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is also an example of the continual growth of the band’s businesses, and has now opened its new permanent facility.
Chief Louie has been recognized for his work with many honours, and numerous Board appointments. He has been featured in The Economist, in Profit Magazine and in Maclean’s as one of 50 Canadians to watch. Chief Louie is a man who understands that economic development is the way of the future.
The Osoyoos Indian Band’s corporate motto is “In Business to Preserve Our Past By Strengthening Our Future.”
Clarence Louie on the rewards of economic independence
“When a First Nations community is poor, nobody really pays attention to them except for when they want to complain about them being welfare recipients or a burden on the tax system….But wherever you go where First Nations people are bringing millions of dollars into the economy of their region and they’re creating hundreds of jobs, there’s a better relationship. There’s a business relationship. I want to see business relationships between the native and non-native communities, not a dependency relationship or a pity relationship.
Chief Louie has dedicated himself to breaking the cycle of government dependence that dictates life on so many of Canada’s aboriginal reserves. He has succeeded brilliantly. With just 460 members, the Osoyoos Indian Band owns more businesses per capita than any other First Nation in the country. It employs 700 people – most of them non-native – and contributes $40-million a year to the local economy.
Now 50, the coolly confident Chief Louie may not be a celebrity on Bay Street, but he enjoys a measure of fame. Recently, he exchanged business cards with Hollywood director James Cameron aboard Vancouver billionaire Jim Pattison’s yacht. He has received many honours, among them the Order of British Columbia in 2006 and the 2004 Business and Commerce award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.
It’s a dramatic change from Chief Louie’s impoverished childhood on the Osoyoos reserve, where he was raised by a hard-working single mother. Because the reserve provided few jobs during the 1960s and ’70s, he recalls, many parents toiled in the orchards of nearby Washington State. “A lot of kids in the families a lot of the time grew up by themselves.”
Read more from the Globe and Mail’s profile of Chief Louie as one of the most transformational Canadians.
For information and to obtain tickets to this year’s gala, please contact Rhonda. Tickets are $165 each or $1,500 per table of ten.
Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce | 227 Portage Ave | Winnipeg, MB R3B 2A8
Telephone: (204) 237-9359 Fax: (204) 947-0145 Email: [email protected]