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Lawrence Lewis

Lawrence Lewis
  • Category: Indigenous Community Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, 1993; Diploma in Public Sector Management, 1998
  • Current hometown: Victoria, BC
  • Birthplace: Cape Mudge, BC

About Lawrence

Whether it’s amplifying voices, fostering community or empowering people through technology, Lawrence Lewis has dedicated his life to creating positive change for Indigenous people. A member of the We Wai Kai Nation (Cape Mudge Indian Band) on Quadra Island, Lewis was heavily involved with the UVic Native Students Union, serving terms as president and vice president. He was also the national Aboriginal spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Students.

After graduating, Lawrence worked in schools and for several Nations as an administrator, and for government as a special advisor to the Ministry of Education. In 2014, he founded OneFeather Mobile Technologies Ltd., which provides election and voting services, community engagement, banking solutions and digital sovereign identity services for Indigenous communities across Canada. As a Rotarian and volunteer with multiple organizations, giving back to the community has been a constant in Lawrence's personal life as well.

What's your favourite memory of being a UVic student?

I met my wife there, so that's a big one. It was also that experience of being active as a young Indigenous person and being involved in advancing Indigenous awareness. Having the resources and support network of the Native Student Union was incredible.

What’s your advice to a younger person who’s uncertain about their future?

Do the work that you enjoy doing. And don't be afraid of the experience. When I think about those first 4 years at UVic, the degree was important, but the real lessons were through all the experiences and the relationships that I had, and being bold and stepping outside of comfort zones.

The act of going to university itself was a massive step to undertake. And then joining the Native Student Union and being politically active, being bold and being adventurous, not being afraid to have experiences and taking risks. Allow all that to coalesce in a way that gives you vision, perspective, attitude, tolerance, appreciation and understanding that the world is endless shades of grey. Nothing is black and white.

What's the best advice someone has given you?

My grandfather’s advice that I live by today is to make sure what you do is not extractive—it should add value. In the parlance of the culture and the big house of my community, it's to leave the table better set than the way you found it.

What is something you do for others?

I am very active with other agencies and organizations and volunteer on a number of national boards. One of them is Tree Canada, where we focus on creating a tree canopy within the urban settings across the country—for better air quality and to reduce heat. When you create green space inside of urban settings and [plant] the appropriate tree in the right location, it can do a world of good. I was also a Rotarian for 25 years, helping build 11 libraries in Indigenous communities. I currently sit on the Oak Bay Police Board. And again, it's just about giving back and providing, whatever kind of value I can offer in those circumstances.

What is something you do for yourself?

I build, design and fly my own remote-control planes of all sizes. It's all a balance. Family first, work second, hobby third. I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids. I coach my son's baseball team, which gives me tremendous joy.

What is something that always makes you laugh?

Really dry satirical humour makes me laugh. My son has a quirkiness about him that I chuckle all the time at.

What is one food that you can’t resist?

A good beef burger.

What is the last great thing you've watched or read?

My son and I just finished reading the Shadow and Bone series. It’s a fantasy, mystical kind of thing, battle of good and evil, that kind of stuff.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

The UVic Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the remarkable achievements of UVic graduates.

Nominations for the 2024 awards are open now through Oct. 13, 2023.