It’s no boardroom boast.
Nicole Bourque-Bouchier has always aimed to represent Canada’s leading Aboriginal business – for practical reasons.
“From our perspective, in terms of working locally, there is no better way to walk your talk than employ people from the community,” says Bourque-Bouchier, whose Fort McMurray, Alta.-based company, Bouchier, provides contracting, construction, maintenance, and site and facility services in Canada’s oil sands.
Over the past 11 years, Bourque-Bouchier, a former president of the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association, and her husband David Bouchier, a past councillor with the Fort McKay First Nation, have nurtured their business into a regional industrial powerhouse, with more than 750 employees, $155 million in annual business, and a spotless safety record.
Part of that success, she says, is a company target of employing 60 per cent Aboriginal workers.
“We can talk about the fact that we’re an Aboriginal-owned business, but making a point of employing Aboriginals brings everything full circle,” says Bourque-Bouchier, who’s from the Mikisew Cree First Nation. “They’re able to stay in their community, raise their family in their community – and for the most part, become the role models in their community.”
Engaging with Aboriginal entrepreneurs and communities is much more than a philanthropic gesture, in the eyes of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB). The CCAB’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program, established in 2001, measures a company’s level of employment, engagement, investment, and support for Aboriginal business development.
The PAR program confirms corporate performance in Aboriginal relations at the bronze, silver, or gold level – and in recent weeks, we learned that Enbridge has been recertified as a PAR silver company. Enbridge originally earned PAR silver certification in 2012; the designation runs on a three-year cycle.
“These are companies that are investing significant time and resources to build sustainable, progressive Aboriginal relations,” says J.P. Gladu, the CCAB’s president and CEO. “It’s more than just the right thing to do. It also has the potential to add to a company’s bottom line, because you’re developing a local workforce. It makes really good business sense.”
The CCAB notes that the Aboriginal population is the fastest growing in Canada, and cites a TD Canada Trust study released in recent years that predicted 36,000 Aboriginal businesses will contribute $32 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) activity by 2016.
A CCAB jury of Aboriginal businesspeople found “substantial improvement” in Enbridge’s PAR strategies, plans, and processes since the last reporting period.
“We’re extremely proud of being recertified as a PAR silver-level company,” says Teresa Homik, Manager of Aboriginal Affairs, National Policies, and Programs with Enbridge. “The report highlighted Enbridge’s new initiatives to build positive relationships through Aboriginal employment, business development, engagement, and community investment.
“Ultimately, the CCAB is looking for long-term, sustained actions and initiatives . . . and we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
PAR-certified companies will be recognized on Thursday, Sept. 24 during the CCAB’s 13th annual Vancouver Gala.