Recipient of the Order of Canada and Lifetime Achievement Award from the CCAB
First elected Chief in 1984, Chief Paul is a proud member of the Membertou First Nation in Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. He is a respected and proven leader who has guided Membertou to becoming one the country’s most progressive Indigenous communities.
First elected Chief in 1984, Chief Paul has been part of transforming Membertou into one the most progressive, efficient and sustainable Indigenous communities in Canada. He joined the Membertou Band Council in the role of Economic Development Officer and progressed to the position of Band Manager before he was elected as Chief in 1984.
In January, 2020, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) awarded Chief Paul with the Aboriginal Business Lifetime Achievement Award for substantive contribution to the economic and social well-being of Aboriginal people over a lifetime. Under Chief Paul’s leadership, Membertou has thrived, rising from high unemployment rates and low graduation rates to one of the most sustainable communities in Canada.
In reaction to the CCAB award, Chief Paul told Business Elite Canada, “I’m very, very honored. To receive this is certainly very unexpected by me. I thank the people that nominated me for this for award and I’m very thankful for it.”
Chief Paul says “it was always my mindset” to improve his community’s position through economic development. “Before I became Chief, I was a Band Manager and Economic Developer Officer. Growing up, I was always interested in our people, the Mi’kmaq people, and our communities. I grew up in a state where most of the community was in poverty and I certainly didn’t like what I was seeing, so I’ve always wanted to improve the lives of our people.”
Chief Paul’s tools to change the condition of the Mi’kmaq people in the Membertou community were education and employment. Under Chief Paul’s leadership, Membertou has increased the gradation rate from 30 per cent to 90 per cent and increased employment by close to 80 per cent
“It starts with the people in the community themselves, and getting the best people to work with them,” says Chief Paul. “You get the best minds possible as long as they are part of the vision of development. It also starts with being really organized in order to accomplish what projects we set out to do.”
Chief Paul has been a leader for his organization and community in establishing accreditations within the business world. In January 2002, Membertou received official notification of its International Organization of Standards (ISO) status, establishing Membertou as the very first Indigenous government in Canada and the world to be ISO 9001 certified. Chief Paul also led the charge to improve the Nation’s financial management. In 2015, Membertou made history again by becoming the first in Canada to earn a Financial Management System Certificate through the FMB.
Membertou’s graduation rates have increased significantly, from having a graduate, “every few years”, when he was young, to today’s 90 per cent graduation rate—above the national average. “One of our pillars is education—it’s one of the requirements that we need in order for our people to develop. We take education, along with the economic development, very seriously. Our members are graduating in almost every field, [which] gives them assets to work anywhere they want.”
Reflecting on the award, Chief Paul is not slowing down. His vision is “to have more of our people, and I don’t mean Membertou, but the Mi’kmaq people in general, to gain more: more employment and more of our people getting into business to keep going on this path.”