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Friday, June 24 • 09:00 - 09:50
STLHE Alan Blizzard Award Presentation: The Northwest Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs

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The Northwest Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs (NW-ACE) program is a collaborative effort between Aboriginal Communities served by Tribal Resource Investment Corporation (TRICORP), regional and provincial governments and the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business to bring first class entrepreneurial learning to the Aboriginal people of Northwest British Columbia. The primary aim of the program is to enhance the self-sufficiency and full economic participation of Aboriginal people in the many exciting projects underway in their traditional territories by helping prospective entrepreneurs start and grow their own businesses.

The success of the NW-ACE Program is only possible through extensive collaboration that spans regions, communities, institutions and faculties, including:

  • 28 professors, administrators and business professionals from the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business (GSB), Faculty of Education, Office of Indigenous Affairs, Executive Programs and others at the University of Victoria (UVic)
  • 6 representatives from Tribal Resources Investment Corporation (TRICORP), an Aboriginal Capital Corporation
  • 25 Aboriginal Communities, 13 urban centres, and 9 First Nations spanning a geographic area of over 600,000 square kilometers in Northwest BC
  • 15 representatives from the private sector economy
  • 4 representatives from Service Canada, a branch of the Federal government
  • 2 post-secondary institutions (University of Victoria and Northwest Community College)

Out of 91 graduates from the first 6 cohorts of the NW-ACE program, 21 have started new businesses.  Four additional cohorts with a total of 63 participants will graduate ready to launch their businesses in the Fall 2016.

The philosophy guiding the collaboration innovation is founded on the belief that perhaps the NW-ACE program can – in some small way – reverse the damage done to First Nation communities through colonization.  NW-ACE used this philosophy to guide the following three implementation strategies:

(1)  To ensure that the Aboriginal communities served through TRICORP own and control the program, the intellectual property and the trademarks for the NW-ACE program. If the university were to own the curriculum for the program, it would just be another example of colonialism.

(2)  To take the university to the Aboriginal community rather than expect the Aboriginal participants to travel to the university. The parents of many of the participants in the NW-ACE program are from the generation of Aboriginal Canadians who were taken from their communities and shipped off to residential schools. This program should not be associated with the deep pain inflicted by a colonial approach of residential schooling, but should rather attempt to reverse it.

(3)  To enable Aboriginal people in the Northwest to become full peer-to-peer partners in the Canadian economy as business owners rather than just employees. The ideal prospective Aboriginal participant would already have a skillset that can be leveraged to start a business that would ultimately become a supplier to one or more of the various corporations driving the development projects in Northwestern BC. 

Consistently, [NW-ACE] graduating students have offered deep appreciation for the learning opportunity provided by Gustavson and TRICORP and further express gratitude for a new way of envisioning and taking advantage of opportunities in Northern BC. The program has truly changed lives.

-          Cory Stephens, Program Manager and NW-ACE Learning Enhancement Officer


Brent Mainprize

Teaching Professor, University of Victoria

Friday June 24, 2016 09:00 - 09:50 EDT
Mustang Lounge (UCC) Western University

Attendees (9)