The 2021 Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations goes to Prince Rupert’s Cory Stephens of Indigenous Ace, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) announced jointly with the award sponsor CIBC, on July 20.
“This award is presented to individuals who challenge the status quo and take action to advance Indigenous business relations,” Tabatha Bull, president and CEO of CCAB, said. “Mr. Stephens is an exemplary example of this initiative, and we are pleased to present this award to him.”
“Entrepreneurship, from a First Nation’s perspective, is often a strategic balance between community, culture, and commerce,” Stephens said.
The award will be presented in Sept. and is to recognize individuals who have contributed through professional and voluntary commitments, to building bridges between Indigenous peoples and Canadian society, making a substantial impact across all sectors, socially, culturally, and politically.
“[This award] highlights the efforts of people who have been ambassadors in working with Indigenous peoples and communities,” CCAB stated.
Stephens joined the University of Victoria Indigenous Ace Program, which implements culturally sensitive and community-tailored entrepreneurial and business education, in 2013 to become the learning and enhancement officer and program manager for the Northwest.
“He has been recognized by peers for the “operational success” of the program and its many awards,” the CCAB stated.
In the eight-year history of the I-Ace program, there have been 40 cohorts of the program resulting in 564 graduates, 184 new businesses and 67 Indigenous communities served. Stephens continues to be a mentor to these budding entrepreneurs and business people, the CCAB said.
Born and raised in Prince Rupert to a Tsimshian mother and growing up with a Nisga’a step-dad, Stephens was encircled in numerous communities and cultures which influenced his enthusiasm in forwarding indigenous entrepreneurship and business.
“As an entrepreneur, teacher, mentor, and coach, my greatest reward is the gratitude expressed from those who now see the world from a different perspective. That is, envisioning opportunity through an entrepreneurial lens while remaining true to our Indigenous values,” he said.
“I am honoured that my life’s work and pursuit to build bridges and entrepreneurial capacity among First Nations, is being recognized by Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business,” Stephens said.
“At CIBC, we are focused on taking an active role in educational programming, sponsorships, and donations at both the community and national level,” Linda Hartford, executive director, trust, CIBC Indigenous markets, said. “Mr. Stephens exemplifies dedication to bringing community together through education and entrepreneurship and we are delighted to be presenting this award to him.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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