Ingredients for Success


Marcel Boucher, an assistant chef with Windigo Catering, prepares food for employees at Goldcorp.'s Musselwhite Mine located northwest of Thunder Bay. The Sioux Lookout-based company has been providing catering services since 2005. Taken from:

Congratulations to Musselwhite’s Windigo Catering, recipients of the Skookum Jim Award for exceptional Aboriginal achievement in the Canadian mining industry

The First Nations term Windigo represents strength and a determination to provide, two of the many ingredients for success demonstrated by the Windigo Catering Team at Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine.

Windigo Catering Limited Partnership, a business venture owned by five members of the Windigo First Nations Council in northwest Ontario, has won the prestigious Skookum Jim Award for exceptional achievement in the Canadian mining industry. The award will be presented at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual conference, which takes place March 3 – 6 in Toronto.

Based in Sioux Lookout, Windigo Catering currently employs 66 people – 83 percent of whom are Aboriginal – and shares revenues amongst the five Windigo member First Nations of Bearskin Lake, Cat Lake, North Caribou Lake, Sachigo Lake and New Slate Falls. In addition to catering, Windigo provides camp management, laundry, janitorial, commissary and housekeeping services to Goldcorp Canada Ltd.’s Musselwhite Mine at Opapimiskan Lake.

The Windigo First Nations Council is a signatory to a business-to-business agreement with Goldcorp that has served as the genesis for a range of employment, skills training, economic development opportunities and environmental protection.

“The Musselwhite Agreement embodies cooperation, understanding, and mutual respect,” says Frank McKay, President of Windigo Ventures General Partner Ltd. “We’ve been proud to work closely with Goldcorp on their Musselwhite project since 1998. Our relationship is based on shared values, and continues to strengthen as we provide increasing support to a range of mining operations.”

McKay further notes that the Goldcorp partnership has been a key catalyst for business growth. “Profits generated through Windigo Catering are financing other aspects of our business, which include Windigo Property LP and Windigo Distributors LP. The Skookum Jim award feels like icing on the cake.”

According to Goldcorp, Windigo Catering has become a valued project partner. “The professionalism and work ethic of Windigo Catering staff have contributed significantly to the success of Musselwhite Mine,” says Gil Lawson, Musselwhite Mine Manager. “I’m proud of our long-standing association with the management and staff at Windigo, and hope to see our relationship continue well into the future.”

Windigo Catering provides on-the-job skills development – including supervisory, chef’s apprentice, accounting, computer, safety, laundry and janitorial training – as well as competitive salaries, employment benefits and a registered pension plan. Windigo’s catering division alone grosses more than $6 million per year, and the Windigo First Nation Council earns monthly revenue-sharing from the mine.

On the operational side, Goldcorp provides scheduled flights – from Cat Lake, Weagamow Lake, Wunnumin Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Pickle Lake and Sioux Lookout – to the mine, to aid in recruiting local First Nation members. Over time, some Windigo employees have chosen to relocate to Thunder Bay, which offers bigger city benefits such as direct access to high schools and post-secondary education.

“Our parent group, Windigo Community Development Corporation, started years ago as a not-for-profit,” recalls McKay. “Launching a separate for-profit business venture in 2005 was a decision that really allowed Windigo Catering to fly. In fact, I would call it a key part of our ‘recipe for success’. We believe winning this award will help us secure new business partnerships with other mineral exploration ventures in Ontario – expansion that can be served through our new Thunder Bay office.”


The Skookum Jim Award validates the overall approach Windigo member First Nations have taken in launching and growing thriving businesses. Windigo’s leadership offers the following advice for First Nations organizations across Canada pursuing similar ventures.

1. Run business ventures under separate ‘for-profit’ channels. Don’t confuse the profit and not-for-profit areas of your economic development.

2. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities for all business staff and management, right up to outlining the role your Directors will play.

3. Do the work necessary to first develop – and then agree on – a long-term vision for the business.

4. Hire a manager that understands and shares your vision – and can inspire the staff they are responsible for.

5. Draft a financial plan for the business. Review and revise it regularly.

6. Make sure you understand – and then are willing to fully comply with – all applicable laws, acts and regulations related to your business.

7. Reward your employees – not only through competitive remuneration, but also through intelligent incentives.

8. Partner with industry to generate meaningful and lasting economic benefits for First Nations communities.

Goldcorp would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Windigo on their award!

To learn more about Windigo Community Development Corporation please visit:

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