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John Kim Bell

Bell and Bernard Limited
John Kim Bell is one of the most decorated Indigenous leaders in Canada and an internationally recognized leader and activist in First Nations resource development and the environment.

Mr. Bell, born on the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve on the south shore of Montreal, has received numerous awards for his unprecedented work as a philanthropist including six honorary doctorates (Universities of Toronto, Alberta, Lakehead, Mount Allison, Trent, & Wilfred Laurier) and is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Order of Ontario. He was the national recipient of the Royal Bank Award for Canadian Achievement in 1988, a major Canadian award carrying a cash price of $250,000 and has received three medals from the Queen plus many other citations for his ground-breaking work.

He has been involved in numerous energy and mining development projects representing both First Nations and corporations alike. He currently leads the Indigenous Affairs for Brookfield Renewable and has served in that same role for Glencore, Hatch, Horizon Legacy and Odyssey Resources. He currently serves as lead negotiator for Michipicoten First Nation and Garden River on mining activity in their treaty territory.

His first career was as a conductor of Broadway musicals in New York having conducted for Gene Kelly, Vincent Price, Sonny Bono, and Lauren Bacall. He toured as the conductor for the Bee Gees before breaking new ground by being appointed Apprentice Conductor to the Toronto Symphony in 1980 making him the first person of Indigenous heritage to conduct a major symphony orchestra.

He has conducted many orchestras in Canada, the U.S. and the Royal Philharmonic in the U.K. and composed music for film and television including PBS’s The Trial of Standing Bear and CTV’s Divided Loyalties, which at the time was the most expensive made for television movie in Canada.

He is likely best known for his ground-breaking work as the Founder of the Canadian Native Arts Foundation, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation and the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. Over a period of twenty years, Mr. Bell built the Foundation into Canada’s premiere Indigenous charity having raised unprecedented financial support for an Indigenous organization. Under his leadership, his Foundation sent tens of thousands of indigenous students to college and university all over Canada, the US and Europe.

During this period he also produced many concerts across Canada featuring movie and Broadway stars such as Bernadette Peters, Manhattan Transfer, and produced and co-composed the first full scale Indigenous dance production, In The Land of Spirits, which premiered in the National Arts Centre in 1988. “Spirits” enjoyed a national tour across Canada in 1992 with Mrs. Mila Mulroney serving as the Honorary Chair of the tour. His production of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, (now Indspire Awards) on CBC Television was the largest Indigenous cultural project ever undertaken in Canada and enjoyed an unprecedented audience of 2 million viewers.

He staged Beyond Survival, an international indigenous cultural conference where he arranged 500 delegates attending from the Soviet Union, Lapland, Ecuador, Guatemala, Colombia, Japan, Mexico and the U.S. in 1992.

He is attributed with discovering Shania Twain and was recently featured in the CBC movie on her life. He was named the 2003 national outstanding cultural leader by The Canadian Conference of the Arts in 2003 and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Conservatory of Music in 2007.

In July 2007, Mr. Bell opened the $30 million-dollar Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in Siksika, Alberta, Canada’s largest First Nation owned and operated museum and tourist attraction. Bell & Bernard Limited oversaw all aspects of the Park working to make it a world class tourist attraction.

Serving as an Intervenor, on behalf of the former National Chief, Phil Fontaine in Ontario’s Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP) review process, Mr. Bell's proposal to Ontario to establish a loan guarantee program for First Nations was successful with Ontario announcing a $250 million loan guarantee program in March 2009.

Mr. Bell has served on the boards of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Millennium Scholarship Foundation, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, The Canadian Council on Social Development, and Canadians for a New Partnership. He is a board member of Kwagis Power & Waas Power in BC, and Chiiwedjin Shu Energy in Québec. He is a Founder of Eeyou Power Management Limited, a Cree owned energy company in James Bay, Québec.

He was recently appointed (2015) to the Board of the Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall Corporation, Toronto’s two largest concert halls.

He returned to conducting in 2009 headlining the Toronto Harbourfront Festival, Planet Indigenous, conducting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which was produced for APTN as a television special.

His extensive and diverse accomplishments are the subject of four documentaries on his life as a conductor, social activist and entrepreneur.
He is an active lecturer on reconciliation, First Nations economic self-determination, and a leading expert on Indigenous resource development.
For more information on John Kim Bell see www.bell&bernard.com and www.johnkimbell.com.