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Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Inductees Shine

The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business inducts Clarence Louie and Ruth Williams into its Hall of Fame
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A maverick chief who does not tolerate “Indian time.” A philanthropist CEO who has started eight nonprofit organizations.

These are the two leaders who were inducted into Canada’s Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame for 2011. Clarence Louie, first elected Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band in 1985, “has devoted his career to improving his community’s standard of living,” the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) said in a press release. Ruth Williams “has been a leader in social and economic development for over 25 years with All Nations Trust Company and is a founding member of eight nonprofit organizations.”

One notable accomplishment under Louie’s leadership is the establishment of one of the first Aboriginal owned and operated wineries in North America, the CCAB said. He was recently named a Transformational Canadian by The Globe and Mail.

Louie is not only chief but also CEO of the Osoyoos Band in South Okanagan, The Globe and Mailreported in a 2006 profile.

“He took a band that had been declared bankrupt and taken over by Indian Affairs and he has turned in into an inspiration,” the newspaper said. “In 2000, the band set a goal of becoming self-sufficient in five years. They're there.”

With the vineyard and winery plus a golf course and a tourist resort, as well as being partners in a ski development, the Osoyoos have more businesses per capita than any first nation in Canada, The Globe and Mail said. Employing members of 13 tribal communities besides the Osoyoos, the band was contributing $40 million annually to the area economy in 2006.

Louie is known for his humor and his take-no-prisoners attitude.

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“I can't stand people who are late,” he said at a 2006 economic conference as stragglers dribbled in while he was speaking, according to The Globe and Mail. “Indian Time doesn't cut it.”

Williams, for her part, is CEO of All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO), the aboriginal-owned financial institution established in 1984 to serve aboriginal entrepreneurs. Shareholders include bands, tribal councils, aboriginal organizations, Métis associations, and status, non-status and Métis individuals, the company says on its site.

Williams was awarded an honorary law degree by Thompson University of Kamloops, B.C., in June 2010 and described by the school as “epitomizing the university’s commitment to ensuring that the campus, curriculum and the university are welcoming, supportive and positive environments for Aboriginal students to achieve their educational goals,” according to an ANTCO release.

Her organizations include the Round Lake Treatment Centre, the Aboriginal Health Advisory Council and the Central Interior Ministry of Child and Family Services Advisory Board. She has also held office in dozens of aboriginal organizations over the years, ANTCO said, including president of the Kamloops Native Housing Society, vice chair of the First Nations Market Housing Fund and board member of the B.C. First Nations Health Centre.

This was the seventh Hall of Fame celebration and took place at the CCAB’s 13th Annual Toronto Gala Dinner on February 15 before an audience of aboriginal and mainstream business and community leaders.

The CCAB, founded in 1984, is a nonprofit group committed to the full participation of Aboriginal people in Canada’s economy. A national nonprofit organization, CCAB offers knowledge, resources, and programs to both mainstream and aboriginal owned companies that foster economic opportunities for aboriginal people and businesses across Canada, the group says on its site.

The group also paid tribute to Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame laureate Garfield Flowers, who died on February 3. He was a business leader in Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador, a “trail blazer in business and a leader in community," said CCAB president and CEO Clint Davis in a statement. “We recently invited Garfield to share his experiences and advice with the 2011 AHBF laureates and other leaders in Canadian business at a special luncheon planned for later in February, and he said, ‘I’ll be there,’ despite his health, showing the enthusiasm for business and community that he was known for around the country.”