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A Passionate Leader

A Passionate Leader | Justin Bourque

Justin Bourque

CEO of Willow Lake Métis Nation

As the CEO of Willow Lake Métis Nation, Justin has been the proud architect of a transition away from a centralized approach to governance so that his community can return to a grassroots organization governed by, and for, the Willow Lake Métis Nation (WLMN). Justin relentlessly focused on restructuring the WLMN as an organization to ensure that it is accountable to its members, driven for community prosperity, and remains culturally grounded. He is committed to bringing new community-based services to the Nation, determined to protect and enhance the community’s rights, and to ensure the Willow Lake Métis have an economically sustainable future for generations to come.

Justin was born and raised in the community of Willow Lake/Anzac and is proud to call it home. He is a traditional harvester, trapper and land user and continues to exercise his rights on the land, passing his knowledge on to his community and kin.

Justin is motivated by those who came before him and inspired to lead a historical Metis community that dates back to a time before Canada. The families who came to the region and established a life on the land despite development motivated him to create opportunities for his community, protecting his ancestors’ land and cultural practice. Members of Justin’s family, the Bourque family, came into the area with work on the rail line in the 1950s and settled at Anzac in the 1960s.

Justin is passionate about protecting the traditional cultural practices that characterized Métis communities in north-eastern Alberta before European control. These practices included living off the land by hunting, trapping, fishing, and plant gathering.

Being A Leader

According to the steadfast leader, balancing the effort towards the details and the vision is the most challenging part of being a CEO. A CEO plays many roles, and it is easy to get wrapped up in the small details, move too fast, and forget the big picture. Justin consistently reminds himself to remain a visionary and integrator of greatness.

He challenges and empowers his team to be innovative, communicative, and proactive. There is always one more step that can be taken to propel his vision forward – and that’s the easy part. Justin has been dreaming of all he is accomplishing alongside his community for decades. The vision and the excitement are what keep him going.

Transparency and accountability are huge motivators for Justin. For far too long, the citizens of the WLMN have been governed in a manner that was detached from the needs of the Nation’s citizens. By operating through structured governance of transparency and accountability, the Nation aims to improve the community’s way of life and sovereignty through responsible leadership.

Building the Pillars

Justin has worked in collaboration with his leadership team and community to establish the 7 Pillars of Governance. The 7 pillars are the foundation of a system created to ensure the organization makes decisions on behalf of their community in the most informed manner possible and with the best intentions for the greater good.

The 7 pillars of governance include economic development, community relations, government relations, industry relations, administration and governance, traditional land use/cultural retention and environment. By making all decisions through the holistic lens of these pillars, Justin and the WLMN are confident they are doing what is right for their community and their culture.

Through environmental research programs, stakeholder engagement activities, and consultation efforts Justin and his team have been working to ensure that the rights of the WLMN are protected, and they continue their traditional practices on the land their ancestors called home. As part of this mission to maintain traditional practices, WLMN is planning to open a bison ranch. This ranch will connect the community to their heritage and be a sustainable opportunity for creating prosperity.

Justin’s long history in Alberta’s energy sector means he has the skills, knowledge, and relationships to develop long-term initiatives to ensure the Nation’s economic sustainability for years to come.

Justin has established numerous joint ventures, MOU’s and business relationships through the Willow Lake Métis Group. His active pursuit of partnerships and business development opportunities, while maintaining alignment with Nation values has established WLMG as the Indigenous business partner of choice in the Wood Buffalo Region, creating long-term prosperity for his citizens for years to come.

WLMN’s diverse array of partnerships, focused on creating benefit to the community have stretched beyond standard partnership models as most recently, WLMN announced that they had joined seven other Indigenous communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to invest in the Northern Courier Pipeline with Suncor. This serves as yet another example of creating long-term prosperity for the citizens of WLMN.

Forward Thinker

Justin’s forward-thinking on technology paired with a drive for climate resilience has provided an opportunity for initiatives that will benefit his community and Indigenous communities everywhere. WLMN’s recent venture, iESG Development Corporation, brings capacity for indigenous communities to invest, develop and own critical infrastructure in the transition of energy development in Alberta. Providing a space for indigenous peoples to work in partnership with both public and private sectors to achieve the collective goal to net zero.   

WLMN is a grassroots organization, and as the CEO of that organization, Justin understands that his role is to execute on the citizens’ wishes. He strives to create mutually beneficial outcomes for the people of WLMN through economic development projects, protection of the environment, and assertion of Rights.

“WLMN is doing things differently and is open to creative solutions through partnerships and MOUs. As a community they are committed to maintain our tradition and cultural practices, but they are also actively pursuing opportunities that ensure prosperity and opportunity for our community moving forward,” says Justin.

The recent project announcement, Sohkastwâwin, is WLMN’s next venture in taking the community to greater heights. Sohkastwâwin is a Cree term which represents the act of being resilient. WLMN Sohkastwâwin looks to reconnect the historical bond between Bison and Metis and with it a restart of an ecosystem of culture, food, and economy that the Metis and Bison once shared. Its initiatives include:

Eco-Bison Ranch

Community Culture Centre

Mother Earth’s Garden

Net Zero Emissions

Disaster Mitigation

Local Power Generation

Métis Housing

Climate Resilience Design

Tourism Products

With work well underway on the Eco-Bison Ranch and many aspects of Sohkastwâwin in planning and development, the WLMN community-based resilience strategy aims to provide a model for others to follow.  

Justin is proud of his people. It truly takes a community to make a change, believe in more, and march forward together. Rebuilding a community, uncovering forgotten history, and moving forward into a prosperous future is significant for this Alberta community. The community receives attention from Alberta’s most prominent energy industry players, incredible energy service industry partners, and the local, provincial, and federal governments. Justin is thrilled that his approach, which is different, has been noticed and recognized by people outside his community, outside Indigenous communities, and throughout the entire province and country.

Justin Bourque Award

“He is committed to bringing new community-based services to the Nation, determined to protect and enhance the community’s rights, and to ensure the Willow Lake Métis have an economically sustainable future for generations to come.”

Justin Bourque

CEO of Willow Lake Métis Nation

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