Tim Hortons fRANCHISE oWNER - Mark Wafer

Tim Hortons fRANCHISE oWNER - Mark Wafer


The Inclusive Employer Awards has grown since its beginnings in 2013, when Mark Wafer, a Rotarian, leading national employment advocate, disability rights advocate and businessman, presented at a local event on how hiring adults with disabilities can contribute to business success.

Owning several Tim Hortons® restaurants , Mark hired inclusively and discovered that turnover was lower, staff morale was improved, and the stores had better sales. He realized that to replace and train a new employee costs roughly $4,000, and determined hiring people with disabilities is good for business. Mark also knows first-hand what it’s like to have a disability:  he is hearing impaired. 

Inspired by Mark’s message, a unique partnership and organizing committee was formed between Community Living BC (CLBC), Rotary Club of Surrey, City of Surrey (Measuring Up Committee) and Milieu Family Services. Building on this momentum, the organizing committee began planning for an inaugural awards event for 2014.


The organizing committee welcomed the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT), to our unique partnership for 2014.  The SBOT became the major event sponsor and introduced branding:  Innovative Labour Solutions Awards (ILSA).  The Rotary at Work initiative also played an initial role by providing certificates to all award nominees.  The keynote speaker, Ellen Pekeles, Vancity’s Senior VP of Operations, mentioned her background in health care, and spoke on Vancity’s inclusive employee protocol. 

"Great leaders treat everyone equally, build on people’s strengths and hire employees who complement their skills." - Ellen Pekeles

Three business and one non-profit award were chosen.  The Rotary Club of Surrey also awarded a $1000 bursary to Orville and Ruth Lee Consulting, who operate health care and social assistance for people with developmental disabilities.

Complete List of 2014 Award Winners and Nominees


The organizing committee welcomed Surrey WorkBC Employment Services Centres, and a Rotary at Work BC Coordinator.  The Gold sponsorship was provided by Vancity. The 2015 organizing committee made a decision to simplify the event name from ILSA to ‘Inclusive Employer Awards’. 

Gordon Ross, Director of Employment Initiatives (Inclusion BC) addressed the audience in his keynote speech on the ‘Ready, Willing and Able’ initiative.  The event attendance surpassed expectations, selling out at 160 attendees.  

Four businesses and one non-profit award were chosen.  The Rotary Club of Surrey also awarded a $1000 bursary to the LEAP* program of the Delta Community Living Society (DCLS).

*The Leading Employment and Achieving Possibilities (LEAP) pilot project will support young adults who are transitioning from school to work. 

Complete List of 2015 Award Winners and Nominees


September 29, 2016 marked another year for the Inclusive Employer Awards that coincided with September’s BC Disability Employment Month and kicked off October’s Community Living month in BC as well as National Disability Employment Awareness month. The event recognized Surrey, Delta and White Rock employers for their innovative and inclusive business practices. Over 150 people attended an awards dinner at the Surrey Arts Centre, celebrating 40 business nominees who have created meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Winners were presented with a unique award, many accompanied by the excited employees who had nominated them, and all nominees received an Inclusive Employer display for their workplace.  

Complete List of 2016 Award Winners and Nominees

Sponsored by Vancity, WCG Services, GARRY THIND, Personal Real Estate Corporation, and Media Sponsor SURREY604, the event included written congratulations from Hon. Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, remarks from the Mayor of Surrey’s office, Vancity Board Director Lily Grewal, and Community Living BC VP of Strategic Initiatives Jack Styan.

The 2016 Inclusive Employer Awards featured a 5-member panel presentation representing topics ranging from large and small business philosophy and success stories; available assistive technologies; guidance for employers on employee mental health issues; and provincial systems and services that are in place for an employer or employee.

The 2016 Inclusive Employer Awards was the result of a collaborative effort by the City of Surrey (Measuring Up Committee), Rotary Club of Surrey, Milieu Family Services, Community Living BC and Surrey Work BC Employment Services Centres.