Victoria LaBillois: Breaking down barriers | UNB
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Spring/Summer 2021

Alumni Changemaker

Victoria LaBillois: Breaking down barriers

ALUMNI NEWS MAGAZINE | Spring/Summer 2021

As a Mi’gmaq entrepreneur and a female in a traditionally male-dominated field, Victoria LaBillois (BA’91, MBA’04), has faced more than her share of barriers.  

Hailing from Listuguj, QC, in the traditional territory of Gespe’gewa’gi, LaBillois crossed the bridge to Campbellton, NB, to attend high school and then studied in the bachelor of arts program at UNB. After university, she landed a job with the federal public service in Ottawa, where she started attending Powwows and noticing t-shirts being worn with Indigenous designs. She jumped into the t-shirt game, but without any kind of business plan or training. “I learned the hard way that I knew nothing, but that I really enjoyed business,” she recalls.  

She returned to her community and began taking distance learning courses in business before making the decision to return to school full time in 2002 to study for an MBA at UNB. “It was such a positive experience for me. Having some work experience and then coming back to the classroom made me treat the MBA like it was a job.” Her work ethic showed. LaBillois graduated with the E.D. Maher award for having the top average in her class.   

After learning about passive income in school, LaBillois’s first move was to purchase real estate, but when she went to the bank for a mortgage to buy an apartment building, she didn’t qualify for an affordable down payment program because she lived on a Canadian reserve. She persevered, started a small company and sold handbags to make her down payment. 

It was at that point that wind energy projects were taking off in Gaspésie and the area, and LaBillois knew this was the field to be in. “This was a new industry in our territory and I looked at the low-hanging fruit – which was the heavy equipment needed to construct it. I didn’t want our community to be bystanders while outside companies swept in to do the work. I wanted to bring highly skilled Mi’gmaq people to the table.” 

She started writing her business plan and four months later, in April 2011, she put the first piece of equipment on the wind park. “I had to learn everything. I researched the industry from scratch. I was confident because I had the tool kit for business, and having the MBA allowed me to be taken more seriously.”  

As the owner and president of Wejipeg Excavation Inc., and co-owner and president of Wejuseg Construction, LaBillois has become an integral part of excavation and contracting in wind park development across the region.

“There were not a lot of women in the field at the time and no Indigenous construction companies. But barriers don’t stop me. I just find ways to go over them or around them. I walk on the jobsite like I own it, because I know I belong there. I guess growing up on a reserve setting and being treated like a second-class citizen has taught me to be resilient.” 

“But barriers don’t stop me. I just find ways to go over them or around them.”  

Through her companies, LaBillois has created important employment opportunities for the Mi’gmaq workforce and has helped bridge race relations, playing no small part in creating an economic renaissance in the territory. She also served as co-chair for a national Steering Committee with the Canadian Construction Association, overseeing development of an Aboriginal Engagement Guide for small- and medium-sized enterprises. 

Not only that, she also coaches others to jump into entrepreneurship as well. She’s served as a mentor in the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program at the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University and in the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program. She mentors young women in the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) mentorship program, which she says is a way to give back after being named a WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Award Winner in both 2019 and 2020. She also teaches financial literacy to Indigenous youth. “I’ve pieced together curriculum through telling our own story about colonization and the systemic racism in business that can hold us back. This kind of teaching and mentoring fills my cup.” 

This fearless leader and changemaker says she didn’t set out to create change. 

“I just didn’t want to be a spectator any longer. I wanted to be a part of the economy and create my own opportunities and help lift up others. Entrepreneurship is an amazing way to do that.” 

“I didn’t get here by myself. Others have worked very hard to create a path in front of me. I’m grateful for that. It’s very satisfying to be part of a movement to lift everyone up at the same time. A rising tide lifts all boats.”