It started with a dream, determination and a D-6 Dozer.
Twenty-five years later, Indigenous-owned oil sands contractor Bouchier marked its silver anniversary as one of the industry’s major players.
“Dave Bouchier took on a loan to start this company. Think about how difficult that process would be for a young Indigenous person back in 1998,” says Mark Churla, who was recently appointed as the company’s chief operating officer.
“He took a chance starting this business and today we have more than 400 pieces of heavy equipment and 1,200 employees. Reaching this milestone of 25 years is a true testament to their entrepreneurship and determination to succeed in business.”
Owned by Dave Bouchier and wife Nicole Bourque-Bouchier, the company is based in Fort McKay, north of Fort McMurray in the heart of the oil sands.
Dave Bouchier was born and raised in Fort McKay and is a councillor of the Fort McKay First Nation. Nicole Bourque-Bouchier was born in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories and raised in Fort McMurray. She is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.
Their company, which provides civil contracting and facility maintenance services, has grown alongside the oil sands industry.
When Bouchier started operations in 1998, oil sands production was less than 500,000 barrels per day. Twenty-five years later, it is over three million barrels per day.
Churla, who joined Bouchier in 2018, appreciates the humble backstory of the company’s roots. Growing up in Fernie B.C., his introduction to the workplace was running heavy equipment at a local coal mine.
“Like most young people growing up in Fernie, that’s where I got my start – running graders, dozers and loaders. It’s an invaluable education in operations on the ground level,” says Churla, who served as Bouchier’s executive director of operations prior to being appointed chief operating officer in October.
“A big reason why I joined Bouchier was the culture. They care about their people, about helping them succeed and keeping them safe.”
That extends to the communities where Bouchier operates. The company has donated more than $7 million to initiatives that focus on building Indigenous pride, developing tomorrow’s leaders, and empowering young women.
Its sponsorships include the Canada Arctic Winter Games, Keyano College, the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association, and Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta.
Bouchier’s values are shaped by the seven sacred teachings, which guide the company’s approach to business and drive to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others.
“Of our 1,200 employees, 43 per cent are Indigenous and we have people from 80 First Nations communities in our workforce,” Churla says.
“We also try to represent that value in our procurement. We provide opportunities for our employees to take part in cultural awareness training through Nisto Consulting and lived experiences, so we all understand the local Indigenous culture, dynamics and traditional territories where we do business.”
This commitment was recognized earlier this year by the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, which honored Bouchier as one of just 22 companies with gold level certification in the group’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations program.
Bouchier was able to achieve gold level certification in less than a year – something that has never been achieved before.
“We take pride in being successful so we can make others successful, whether it’s through creating jobs, opportunities or supporting communities through giving back,” Churla says.
“That’s been at the heart of what Dave and Nicole have done over the past 25 years.”
Along the way, they have also created a strong company.
“This is an Indigenous-owned company that can compete locally or nationally at all levels,” Churla says.
“We strive to deliver best-in-class results. That’s what has also made us successful.”
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