by JP Gladu, President and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
I’m proud to say that I have always had a deep connection to the forest. Growing up in northwestern Ontario I always wanted to be a conservation officer. Both my father and my grandfather were loggers. My passion was playing hockey, hunting and fishing and just being in the bush. These fond memories remind me of the need to encourage our young people to embrace their passion early in life on the road to finding rewarding careers.
As President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) I understand the importance of the forestry industry and the valuable jobs and fulfilling lives they continue to create for our people.
When I was eighteen I went to college in Sault St. Marie where I studied forestry. When I got out of school my first job was with Natural Resources Canada working in the First Nations Forestry Program. I worked with 40 First Nations from Sudbury to Fort Frances and Kenora. It was here that I realized that my personal passion was working with our communities.
From here I headed out west to work for the Ministry of Forests in Cranbrook B.C. where I was the youngest Aboriginal Forestry Advisor in the Province of B.C. at the age of 23.
Understanding the importance facilitating relationships between Industry, Government and First Nations started early in my career.
The work that the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) is doing serves as a solid foundation for sustainable best practices that protect the legacy of what forests are and the prosperity they provide for our communities.
Recognizing Aboriginal youth and the role they can play in crafting tomorrow’s forest products is front and centre through initiatives like FPAC’s Skills Award for Aboriginal Youth.
The award is given to an individual that exemplifies the qualities of strong academic standing, commitment to their field of study and to the revitalized forest products industry and a demonstrated commitment to the Aboriginal community.
The special partnership that the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) has forged with FPAC is an important opportunity for our organizations to engage on the ground with up and coming youth with an interest in working in the revitalized forest products industry.
Another joint FPAC/CCAB initiative is the Aboriginal Business Leadership Award which recognizes and celebrates Aboriginal entrepreneurs for their success in a forest products business. They must exemplify business leadership, exceptional environmental and safety performance and the delivery of high quality goods and services. The recipient must also demonstrate a strong, long-term commitment to the Indigenous community, particularly in supporting Indigenous employment. This year’s winner was Chief David Walkem, President of Stuwix Joint Resources. He was recently awarded this distinction in front of his peers and colleagues in Vancouver at the UBC Forestry Centre where he actively participates on the faculty of forestry’s First Nations Council of Advisors.
Previous entrepreneur recipients include Grace Esquega, the President of Niigaani Enterprises in Gull Bay, Ontario; Percy Guichon, the Chief of the Alexis Creek Indian Band; Tsi Del Del Enterprises of Chilanko Forks BC and Al Humphry’s the General Manager of Duz Cho logging, owned by the McLeod Lake Indian Band.
Their success stories are proof perfect that Aboriginal participation in the revitalization of the forest products industry is worth supporting and celebrating.