“Trillions of dollars are traded in the world economy each day,” says Bernd Christmas. “I encourage all First Nations peoples and governments to step up to the plate and demand their piece of the pie. Our success lies in building on the innovations of today while at the same time, incorporating indigenous knowledge based on the principles of conservation, sustainability of resources and reverence for the lands and the waters.”
The current CEO of the Membertou First Nation should know a thing or two about economic development. In 1995, at the request of Chief Terrance Paul, Mr. Christmas gave up his lucrative and promising career as an elite corporate lawyer to return home to assume the leading business role for his Mi’kmaw community of Membertou. A decade later, the results of that decision have been dramatic.
Since 1995, he has helped Membertou First Nation go from a one million dollar deficit with an operating budget of six million dollars to a current operating budget of sixty-five million dollars. With the support of his Chief and Council, Mr. Christmas has set an impressive precedent, signing significant business arrangements with companies such as Lockheed Martin, Sodexho Canada, SNC-Lavalin, Grant Thornton, and Clearwater Fine Foods.
Mr. Christmas made national news when he was instrumental in obtaining certification by the International Standards Organization (ISO) for Membertou, the first native community to obtain this status. He has also devoted much of his time to working with other First Nation communities interested in obtaining ISO certification.
Mr. Christmas currently serves as a Board member of the CBC Radio Canada, the Canadian Unity Council and the Canadian Aboriginal Minority Supplier Council. He has served on the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, the Governor General’s Leadership Conference Executive Committee, the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the Prime Minister’s External Advisory Committee on Smart Regulation.
A graduate of the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Mr. Christmas has been recognized as one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs.