Membertou Background

Community Profile

Named after the Grand Chief Membertou (1510-1611) the community of Membertou belongs to the greater tribal group of the Mi’kmaw Nation. Membertou is situated 3 kms from the heart of the city of Sydney, Nova Scotia, within its tribal district of Unama’ki (Cape Breton). It is one of five Mi’kmaw communities in Cape Breton, and one of thirteen in the Province of Nova Scotia. Membertou is an urban First Nation community consisting of over 1400 people, and one of five communities that make up the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, with a total population of over 115 thousand people.

Membertou was moved from its original location, of Kings Road Reserve, in 1926 by the Exechequer Court of Canada. This was the first time an Aboriginal community had been legally forced through the courts to relocate in Canadian history. 

In 1995 the Membertou Band had 37 employees, was operating on a $4 million budget while dealing with a $1 million annual operating deficit. The community was poor with low morale and a high unemployment rate. It was then that Chief Terrance Paul decided it was time for a major change. With great determination, he and the council recruited band members that had left the community years prior to pursue their education and were employed throughout the country.

This new formed leadership decided that an unprecedented approach for Membertou was needed and that it would start by putting its financial house in order while embracing transparency and accountability. While this task required sacrifice it also generated a renewed sense of accomplishment (deficit eliminated) and discipline that quickly earned the respect of external parties in government and industry.
With its financial house in order and a vastly improved capacity in management and administration, Membertou was now positioned to play a greater part in the mainstream economy. With a goal of generating new revenue streams to diminish dependence on government transfers, Membertou made three strategic decisions.

The first was to actively forge a new economic frontier, one that built on the innovations of today while at the same time, incorporated indigenous knowledge-based principles of conservation, sustainability of resources and reverence for the land and the waters.
With the principles of conservation, sustainability, innovation and success firmly in place, Membertou then strategically increased its profile with major private sector companies by launching the Membertou Corporate Office in downtown Halifax. The unprecedented profile this provided has assisted in leading to the formation of a number of lucrative partnerships with private industry sectors in Engineering, Mining, Energy, Construction, GIS, IT, Business Management, Consulting Services, Insurance, Commercial Fisheries, and Real Estate to name a few.

The third strategic decision was to initiate proactive education and career-related training programs for the residents of Membertou in order to maximize on employment opportunities that arose as a result of the newly forged business partnerships and initiatives. The present and future development opportunities flowing from these three strategic decisions continue to build momentum for Membertou’s aspirations of financial independence and self-sustainability.

Over the last 15 years, Membertou’s budget has grown to a current 112 million dollar operating budget. The number of employees has jumped from 37 to 550 (during peak seasons) and there are many new internal departments and businesses, as well as initiatives underway. They are the first Aboriginal community in the world to receive ISO: 9001-2008 certification.


Membertou operates under the Indian Act of Canada; federal legislation enacted by the parliament of Canada. It is governed by one Chief and twelve Councilors that are elected every two years by the Membertou community members. Chief Terrance Paul has been elected Chief of Membertou for past 30 consecutive years. The Chief and Council meets twice monthly to discuss Membertou’s future plans, resolve any current issues, voice the thoughts and ideas of the community members, and to ensure smooth operation of its business and administration departments.

As Membertou expands and grows, they focus on the youth of Membertou, as the future of the youth is the future of Membertou. They have strategic programs and training that stress the importance of education in the hopes that the youth of Membertou will take over senior positions and continue moving Membertou forward.

Chief and Council

Chief Terry Paul
Austin Christmas
Dean Christmas
Julie Christmas
Joan Denny
Robin Googoo
Lee Gould
Johanna LaPorte
Paul MacDonald
David Marshall
Allister Matthews
Anthony Paul
Lawrence Paul Jr.