Our Team

Our Team

The Board

Robert Penwarden

Robert Penwarden, Chair

Mr. Penwarden was the owner and operator of the Tundra Inn located in Churchill, Manitoba from 1977 to 2009. He was a member of the Fort Churchill Military Hospital board of directors between 1968 and 2009, serving as Chair of the Board for approximately two thirds of that time. Mr. Penwarden has also actively been involved in the Churchill Chamber of Commerce, the Churchill Northern Study Centre and the Thompson Region Local Management Board.

Wayne Rivers

Wayne Rivers, Co-Chair

Prior to negotiating the successful sale of the company in 2016 Wayne was the president and CEO of Procurity Inc. I leading supplier of retail, pharmaceutical and financial services to independent pharmacy in Western Canada. Operating distribution facilities In Saskatchewan, Alberta and head office in Manitoba and with annual revenues excess of $200 million ,Procurity grew to be a significant and profitable participant in one of the most highly regulated and competitive industries.

In 2016 Wayne founded the Two Rivers Consulting Group Inc., providing a variety of general management services to clients in the pharmaceutical sector.

Born in Winnipeg and a graduate of the University of Winnipeg, Wayne is married to wife Cheryl and together they have two adult daughters.

  • A former member of the Board of Directors and chairman of the Canadian Wholesale Drug association
  • Active and current board member of the children's rehabilitation foundation
  • Past board member of rainbow stage

Wayne Rivers

Crystal Adamson, Director

Crystal Adamson began her professional career as an Accountant working in public practice and working towards her Chartered Accountant Designation. During this time, her focus was audit and advisory services for small to medium sized businesses in various industries. This experience allowed her to develop her financial analysis, critical thinking, and business acumen.

Crystal obtained her Chartered Accountant designation in 2010. Always having an interest in entrepreneurship, Crystal left public practice in 2011 to manage The BraBar & Panterie with plans to purchase. After working with the original owner for two years, Crystal purchased The BraBar with help from LRCC and The MEDF.

Over the past 7 years, Crystal has made significant changes to The BraBar to modernize the brand and expand market share. As an entrepreneur with a professional designation she has been able to use her accounting background and strong analytical skills to adapt The BraBar to consumer needs, assess risks and seize opportunities.

Wayne Rivers

Stan Higgins, Director

Stan Higgins is a Metis entrepreneur with exposure to a wide range of industries and sectors in Manitoba and across Canada.

Stan is the founder of VersaPile, Inc. - Helical Pile Contractors, a niche piling company specializing in helical piles which was born in 2011 with assistance from LRCC. VersaPile, Inc. completes projects for a wide range of projects for various sectors including residential, Indigenous, commercial, industrial, and agricultural. VersaPile, Inc. competes strongly as the province's leading helical pile contractor but also works closely with Indigenous communities to train local workers to complete helical pile projects within their communities.

Relevant work experience includes:

  • Partner with Higgins Executive Search specializing in Aboriginal c-level recruiting;
  • Manager of Human Resources Western Canada with HP and EDS;
  • Instructor of HR Management at University of Winnipeg
  • Contracted Manager of the National Aboriginal Recruitment Fair for AHRC; and
  • Manager of Youth Cultural Program at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.

In addition to his work experience, Stan offers the following experience:

  • Member of Entrepreneur's Organization (EO) since 2015 with 4 years on local EO board and 3 years on Canadian EO board;
  • Member of Young Construction Leaders of Manitoba;
  • Active board member of the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre since 2010;
  • Previous member of the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce board;, and
  • Previous member of the national Aboriginal youth advisory committee for Heritage Canada.

Stan is married with two boys, enjoys an active lifestyle, and loves entrepreneurship.

Wayne Rivers

Elizebeth Palfrey, Director

Ms. Palfrey has over three decades of experience as a senior resident managing partner and shareholder in a private sector corporation, overseeing the day to day operations of a variety of private companies operating throughout Nunavut. In 2002, she relocated to Winnipeg and within several years, these holdings were sold to various aboriginal groups within Nunavut. A major impetus of their corporate working philosophy included strong community activism and encouraging the development of a robust aboriginally owned private sector. Much of this work included significant community consultation and collaboration through exhibiting, by example, a strong commitment to volunteerism.

She worked extensively for many years with local, territorial and Federal Governments in a variety of appointed and advisory positions in the fields of health care, tourism, economic development and community development. She previously served on the NWT Business Loan Fund, the Premiers advisory committee on Economic Development, as well as on the board of the regional Chamber of Commerce. She was elected as President of the NWT Tourism Association and served on the boards of Tourism Association of Canada, Churchill Health Centre, and Winnipeg Regional Health Board.

During a lengthy tenure as Chair of the Board of Health for the Kivalliq region several joint ventures were initiated to bring back various health services to the local communities and ultimately to increase job opportunities for local Inuit through joint ventures created to provide opportunities to participate in the health economy. Several new private sector aboriginally owned businesses were formed to facilitate these endeavours in the areas of pharmacy and dental services.

Ms Palfrey also served for over a decade on the board of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation as Metis board member and then as treasurer and executive member as well as chairing several working committees. In addition, she sat for over twenty years as board member, treasurer and Vice President of the Legacy of Hope Foundation , a National Aboriginal registered charity with a mandate to create awareness of the legacy of Residential schools, which has now expanded to include 60's scoop and MMIWG.

Ms Palfrey continues to take a strong interest in the development of youth employment and private sector development within the aboriginal community.


John Coutris

John Coutris, Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Coutris graduated from the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Management receiving a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree specializing in Finance. As Chief Executive Officer of the Metis Economic Development Fund, John is responsible for all business activities, promotion, and execution of the fund. In addition, he is accountable for the financial management of the fund and investments through a comprehensive and disciplined disclosure process.

Mr. Coutris also represents MEDF as a Director on each of the investee investments assisting to steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound and ethical governance and financial management policies. Prior to the joining the Fund, John spent many years in the financial services industry advising retail & commercial clients as part of the leadership team. As past Vice President and Treasurer of non-profit organizations, his engaging approach to leadership, strategic development, and corporate execution have assisted to create strategically focused, sustainable, and thriving organizations.

Erica Fenner

Erica Fenner, Office Manager

With more than a decade of experience working in the Metis community, Mrs. Fenner brings a vast knowledge of the culture and entrepreneurial spirit of the Metis people to MEDF. As the Office Manager, Mrs. Fenner assists the MEDF team with the development of the annual marketing plan, the management of the Funds financials, as well as ensuring the Fund is kept current with the ongoing growth of its digital marketing and social media platforms. Her outstanding training, leadership and communication skills will ensure exceptional proficiency in the continued success of MEDF and the sustainability of thriving Metis communities.