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MEDIA RELEASE – June 25, 2013: Aboriginal leader raising economic awareness

by Nicole Halloran / Antigonish Casket

Mary Beth Doucette of Membertou will speak about the successes of Aboriginal communities during the Georgetown Conference: Rural Redefined Oct. 3 to 5. Newspapers Atlantic is sponsoring the conference which will bring 250 delegates to Georgetown, P.E.I. to discuss economic development in rural Atlantic Canada.

Mary Beth Doucette believes the best way to promote development in rural communities is to lead by example.

She’s helping lead the way in Membertou.

Doucette said she has seen significant changes in the aboriginal community since the time she got involved.

She noted the success of the Membertou Heritage Park, the completion of the road to the hospital, and programs that are being made available to members of the community.

“It’s an amazing community to be involved with because there’s always things going on,” Doucette said. “There’s always opportunities. There’s always growth and change.”

Doucette said other local aboriginal communities, such as Paqtnkek and Eskasoni, have also been seeing major changes in the past several years.

Rose Julian, who has recently completed the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program at the Coady Insitute has become a valuable leader for the Paqtnkek community.

“Even though it’s a very small reserve and a smaller population than Membertou, they have been able to negotiate some pretty big deals with the province,” Doucette .

Doucette, a Mi’kmaq native of Coxheath, Cape Breton, first got involved with the Membertou community during her studies at Cape Breton University.

While completing her MBA in community economic development and specializing in Aboriginal economic development, Doucette worked closely with the elder members of Membertou who were trying to bring more awareness to the Membertou Heritage Park.

For her major research paper, Doucette studied their business model.

“I analyzed what motivated them to get involved, whether it was economically feasible, what were some of the other options that they had available to them,” she said.

After working closely with the senior managers of the Membertou band office and impressing them with her work, Doucette was hired as a consultant, and eventually moved towards a management position. She is currently the director of quality assurance and ISO compliance at the Membertou band office.

In addition to her work at the band office, Doucette is the associate Purdy Crawford chair of Aboriginal business studies at CBU. Alongside the chair, Dr. Keith Brown, Doucette is responsible for conducting research with the elders of the community. The Membertou band office has donated 30 per cent of her time to work on this initiative.

Less than a year ago, Brown was approached by Wade MacLaughlin of the Georgetown Conference: Rural Redefined to be a speaker at the event. After Brown suggested Doucette’s experience as an Aboriginal would be more impactful, she agreed to be a speaker.

Doucette will participate in a panel discussion at the conference which will include 250 delegate from Atlantic Canada this coming October.

“There’s a long list of pretty capable and inspiring people, so I’m in awe of the talent and experience that’s going to be there. And it’s encouraging to see that there are different people who have a similar outlook on life and want to see rural communities and small communities take a leadership role in their future,” she said.

Doucette is also part of the Membertou Governance Committee, which is a community project that started to take shape in 2009.

“The goals of the committee are to research, discuss, and draft laws and codes relating to land management, citizenship, and elections,” she said.

“It has the potential to be one of the most influential projects the community can engage in, because it’s about asserting our right to self-government.”

Halloran is a fourth year journalism student at Kings College. She writes for the Antigonish Casket.