The concept for the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) came from founder Murray Koffler, who had witnessed the poverty of Aboriginal men, women, and children living on the wintry streets of Calgary in 1980.
Koffler, founder of Shoppers Drug Mart and Four Seasons hotels, asked a colleague in government what the government was doing to address the situation. He, in turn, was asked why the business community wasn’t providing solutions and resources of its own.
Back home in Calgary, Koffler took action. He prepared a one-day think tank on his farm, called Jokers Hill, in King, Ontario with former Prime Minister Paul Martin, Maurice Strong, and Edward Bronfman. The group’s realization that business skills development builds capacity for Aboriginal youth and adults moved them to create the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, a business organization that also educates Canadians about Aboriginal issues.
Since 1982, CCAB has bridged gaps between the Canadian corporate world and the Aboriginal business community with the affirmation and recognition of Aboriginal rights as recognized by Section 35 of the Constitution. CCAB improves economic disparities for Aboriginal communities while assisting corporate businesses in engaging Aboriginal businesses. As a non-profit, CCAB receives no core government funding.
As CCAB prepares to celebrate 30 years and beyond, new president and CEO, JP Gladu, an Anishinaabe and member of the Sand Point First Nation, has an eye on history and culture as he continues to strengthen the organizational foundation by showcasing and promoting Aboriginal business in the 21st century.
“Aboriginal peoples were the first business people in North America. They were in the business of fur trade and they were good at it. Aboriginal businesses have gone through some challenging times but they’re back and they’re booming,” says Gladu.
According to a recent TD Bank study, over 36,000 Aboriginal businesses across Canada will contribute $32 billion in GDP by 2016 in combined income across businesses and governments.
“Aboriginal business reflects that we are net contributors to the Canadian economy, a fact often lost on the average Canadian. Canadians often see Aboriginal communities and peoples as a burden on the economy. Aboriginal entrepreneurial business success changes this misinformation,” says Gladu. “Engaging with Aboriginal people and businesses opens the door to extraordinary business opportunity. Defining sustainable economic growth through mutual respect for culture and the environment works toward building positive relationships and helps to debunk misinformed stereotypes.”
Since 2001, non-Aboriginal businesses have participated in CCAB’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certification program. PAR ensures Aboriginal relations are addressed as part of a company’s overall social responsibility strategy. The PAR program recognizes a company’s performance in four key areas: employment, business development, community investment and community engagement. There are also four different levels by which a company may be recognized – committed, bronze, silver and gold – though CCAB stresses emphasis on continuous, progressive improvement with Aboriginal communities.
CCAB recently launched a Certified Aboriginal Business program (CAB) that makes Aboriginal businesses easily identifiable to industry, government and other organizations. The program indicates that Aboriginal businesses are 51 percent or more owned and controlled by an Aboriginal person(s). Certified businesses are listed on a CAB directory found at www.ccab.com.
CCAB provides a vital link for potential business opportunities at local, regional, and national levels for Aboriginal peoples. Certified businesses are also able to access tender opportunities posted by CCAB business members.
CCAB recognizes the importance of celebrating personal, corporate and entrepreneurial success. The Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame recognizes lifetime Aboriginal business leaders who contribute to the economic and social well-being of Aboriginal people. The Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations acknowledges a Canadian who through professional and voluntary commitments built bridges between Aboriginal people and Canadians across sectors, including business.
The National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award is being introduced this year by CCAB and ESS Support Services Worldwide. This prestigious award will be given to an Aboriginal entrepreneur under the age of 35. The recipient will receive a $10,000 cash award and be recognized at CCAB’s Annual Toronto Gala.
The Aboriginal Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of the Year Award started in 2014 and affirms the value EDC brings to Aboriginal communities by employment, business development, and revenue generation. The inaugural award will take place at CCAB’s 2014 Calgary Gala.
CCAB facilitates business connections for Aboriginal businesses with events such as the Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Conference and Tradeshow. Recently held in Gatineau, Que., participants interacted with Aboriginal business leaders and corporate Canada.
CCAB’s vision and support since 1984 continues to drive corporate Canada and Aboriginal business opportunities while advancing mutual corporate social responsibility.