The development of a successful business enterprise that creates employment and gives birth to dozens of other business ventures is an outstanding achievement in any community. When that community covers a vast geographic area and involves people from diverse cultural backgrounds, the achievement is even more impressive. William Lyall, a prominent leader in the corporate movement in the north, symbolizes the success that has been achieved by the Aboriginal cooperatives across the Northwest Territories.
“Bill” Lyall as he is known, is from the Kitikmeot Region, and grew up in the community of Taloyoak. He spent his early adult years exploring various career paths, including a fisherman, a heavy duty mechanic, and the owner of a taxi service in Cambridge Bay.
In 1978 he was elected president of the Ikaluktutiak Co-operative in Cambridge Bay and played an important role in building it into the most successful commercial fishing industry in Canada, and expanding it into such ventures as a hotel, retail operations and cable TV service. The cooperative has grown from an asset base of $300,000 in 1975 to $2.3 million in 1993.
On a territorial level, Mr. Lyall served as director of Canadian Arctic Producers in the late 1970s, which at the time was the only Aboriginal-owned wholesaler of arts and crafts in Canada. The cooperative joined the Canadian Arctic Co-operative Federation in 1981, to form the Arctic Co-operatives Limited, one of the largest federations of independent Aboriginal-owned businesses in North America. The 37 businesses represented in the federation included those owned by Inuit and Dene from all regions of the Northwest Territories. Mr. Lyall currently serves as president of the Arctic Co-operatives Limited, which provides a broad range of services to its members, including accounting, purchasing, arts and crafts marketing, construction and business planning. The annual revenues of this aboriginal-controlled co-operative are $45 million, the assets are $16 million, and member equity is $9 million.
In 1986, Mr. Lyall was one of the driving forces behind the development and capitalization of one of the first Aboriginal capital corporations, the NWT Cooperative Business Development Fund. The Fund, which Mr. Lyall served as president until 1993, invests in the Northwest Territories in Aboriginal-owned and controlled co-operatives. It has an asset base of over $17 million.
Mr. Lyall’s community service is as extensive as his business achievements. He has served a term on the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, as member of the Arctic Coast Tourist Association, and the NWT Water Board among others. He is a recipient of the Canada 125 Medal.