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B.C. gets a taste of Aboriginal social enterprise

For Immediate Release
April 22, 2014
Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

COURTENAY – B.C.’s first Aboriginal Social Enterprise Day was celebrated today with the unveiling of a symbolic logo designed by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Andy Everson, grandson of the late Kómoks First Nation Hereditary Chief Andy Frank.

Everson joined Social Development and Social Innovation Minister Don McRae at Wachiay Friendship Centre where they celebrated with Wachiay board members, elders, youth, staff, Comox Valley Art Gallery and community supporters.

Wachiay profiled several social enterprise businesses including AQ’SAAK Aboriginal Food Products Ltd. AQ’SAAK means respect for nature and is a specialty food producer of Aboriginal themed teas, chocolates and other fine products.

Cheryl Simon, a Kwakwaka’wakw business woman and traditional herbs practitioner, explained the traditional uses, history and significance behind the ingredients used in AQ’SAAK specialty products, referred to as Edible Aboriginal Legends in their literature.

The celebration of Aboriginal social enterprises also included the Gwa’wina (Raven) screen printing co-op whose young entrepreneurs practised their skills by printing the new Aboriginal Social Enterprise Day logo onto T-shirts.

Proclaiming April 22, 2014, as Aboriginal Social Enterprise Day recognizes the growth of social enterprise and the entrepreneurial legacy of Aboriginal people in B.C.

The government of B.C. has also proclaimed April 2014 as Social Enterprise Month to celebrate the expanding social enterprise sector and recognize its contribution to the strength and resiliency of B.C. communities.

Social enterprises — a form of social innovation — differ from most traditional businesses in that profits are not just used to ensure financial viability, but are re-invested to achieve, sustain and further a social or environmental purpose.

As an active member of the BC Partners for Social Impact, government works with leaders in the social innovation field to promote and support social innovation and enterprise throughout the province.


Don McRae, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –

“I want to thank Aboriginal social entrepreneurs for their innovation and hard work growing social enterprise in British Columbia. I saw some great examples of social enterprise today at the Wachiay Aboriginal Friendship Centre in Courtenay, and I encourage citizens to come and check them out, or get out and visit a local enterprise in their community and celebrate their positive contributions.”

Michael Colclough, Executive Director, Wachiay Aboriginal Friendship Centre –

“The demographic we serve includes the homeless, unemployed, under-employed plus the working and retired poor. We counted 11,500 point-of-service contacts accessing our services and programs in 2013. Social enterprise is a means for us to create employment for all people including youth, elders who need to augment their income to provide greater security and those living with mental and physical challenges. We invite socially conscious investors to work with us and give back to those in our community who are not as fortunate as others.”

Marlo Wylie, Wachiay Screen Printing Program –

“It is not an easy job being an artist, I think people under estimate the process. It was a really hard process knowing where the shapes are placed, how far they should be from each other and what colours they should be. It is great because everyone is really supportive of each other. I love to have other peoples’ input. The art show was a great experience for me, having my own art work in a gallery is really something. The computer art design is what we are working on now, which is going to be a really great skill for later in life and I hope to continue this program.”

Quick Facts:

Based on a 2011 survey, B.C. social enterprises provided services to nearly 700,000 people and generated at least $60 million in revenues.
B.C. social enterprises provide valuable services, offer employment opportunities, involve volunteers, and train thousands of people each year.
Aboriginal people are the youngest and fastest-growing demographic in the province. Aboriginal youth will play a vital role in B.C.’s future, expanding our available workforce, creating new businesses and contributing overall to our economic growth.

Learn More:

View the proclamation at:

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres:

The Wachiay Aboriginal Friendship Centre in Courtenay:

AQ’SAAK Aboriginal Food Products:

Artist Andy Everson:

Information on April Social Enterprise Month events happening around B.C.:

Learn more about the BC Partners for Social Impact and the Action Plan to Maximize Social Innovation in B.C.:

Media Contact:

Joanne Whittier
Communications Manager
Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation
250 387-6490



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