Byron Gourley

Promise to help First Nation pays off with national Cando nomination

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Contributor

Byron GourleyByron Gourley kept good on his promise.

And now the economic development officer for New Brunswick’s Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation is being recognized for his efforts.

About a half dozen years ago Gourley had promised then chief Freeman Ward that he would one day return and work for his First Nation.

“I gave him my word I would help our First Nation work forward in economic development,” Gourley said.

Though Ward died in 2016, Gourley, who was working as an executive assistant for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, returned home to work for his First Nation the following year.

“My contract was up and my chief scooped me up right away,” said Gourley, a 45-year-old, whose previous jobs included providing online banking support for the Royal Bank of Canada and technical software support for AOL Canada.

Gourley’s efforts with his First Nation are being recognized as he’s one of two finalists for Cando’s EDO of the Year. Cando is the organization which promotes economic development in Indigenous communities across Canada.

The winner and runner-up for the EDO award will be announced at the annual Cando Conference. This year’s event is scheduled for Oct. 27-30 in Gatineau, Que.

Awards in two other categories will also be presented at the conference. They are for community of the year and Indigenous private sector business.

Though he’s only been employed by his First Nation for a couple of years now, Gourley is thoroughly enjoying his work.

“It’s very gratifying I get to do this,” he said. “It’s such an honour to get them to respond to your ideas. They take everything into consideration. Fortunately, I haven’t had a bad review where they’ve said no thanks to any of my ideas.”

Gourley’s recent efforts have included working on land his First Nation recently purchased in Moncton. The plan is to convert that land and use it for economic development.

Gourley has also had numerous other conversations with others on behalf of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation and is looking to form partnerships that will lead to other business deals.

“We have a treaty where we can purchase quite a bit of land in New Brunswick,” he said. “We might be able to do partnerships with others. That’s something that excites me.”