Steven Stark Bio

Steven Stark | Documentary Protagonist

Steven Stark’s life journey has been one of remarkable resilience and triumph over adversity. Born in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Steven had little connection to his Tsawwassen First Nation heritage on his father’s side during his early years. His childhood was marred by a turbulent family situation, with his mother leaving an abusive relationship when he was only two years old. As a victim himself, Steven faced immense challenges, both physically and emotionally.

Due to his stepfather’s profession as an independent gold miner, Steven’s family frequently moved, causing him to attend multiple schools within a single year. Unfortunately, this constant upheaval prevented the early diagnosis of his dyslexia and legal deafness. Steven’s hearing impairment led to a speech impediment, causing others to underestimate his intellect. It was not until the fourth grade, after his first reconstructive ear surgery, that he heard words properly for the first time. Over the course of 14 surgeries, he eventually regained full hearing.

Steven’s years with his stepfather were marked by torment and abuse. He endured various forms of physical abuse and psychological terror throughout his childhood, which continued to his adolescence when, at the age of 12, Steven was molested by a family member. The scars from these experiences haunted him in the form of regular night terrors throughout his adult life.

At 15, Steven faced difficulties at school and within the community, leading his parents to expel him from their home. He was given a one-way ticket from Vega Lodge, Colorado, where his family was living, to downtown Vancouver. Arriving in Vancouver, his brother Jeremy provided support and took him back to the Okanagan Falls community, where Steven found work at a local Chinese restaurant. It was during this time that he managed to track down his biological father, which initiated the darkest period of his life.

His father, Brian James Cardinal, welcomed Steven back to the Tsawwassen reserve. However, as Brian immersed himself in drug-related activities, Steven became entangled in the destructive world of addiction. Father-son bonding took the form of Brian teaching Steven how to smoke crack and involving him in dealing with and bootlegging. Steven candidly admits his role in introducing drugs to the community. For years, he oscillated between British Columbia and Alberta, frequently landing in jail for various misdemeanour crimes. Eventually, at the age of 24, he returned to Tsawwassen, awaiting the seemingly inevitable moment when addiction would consume him completely. However, it was in this very place he considered “home” that he found his path to recovery.

Recognizing that his life had veered off course, Steven yearned for a different future. One fateful night, his cousin Mike Baird arrived at a drug house to pick him up and transport him to rehab. Although there were a few relapses in the early stages of sobriety, Steven achieved three months of clean living. However, he still had nowhere else to go and ended up residing in a drug house. Despite this challenging situation, he attended AA meetings twice a day, every day, and it was at these meetings that he met his mentor, Ken Baird. Ken offered him a spare room in exchange for assistance with household chores, caring for the children, and contributing to food expenses. Armed with his possessions in a black garbage bag, Steven walked nine houses over to start rebuilding his life.

Even amidst the struggles of his childhood and adolescence, Steven’s entrepreneurial spirit remained intact. With the support of his friends and newfound sobriety, he focused on learning how to crab and fish alongside Ken. Additionally, he took carpentry classes at Kwantlen Polytechnic University while working as a carpenter to provide for his wife and young daughter. Eventually, through savings, he purchased a boat and pursued fishing full-time. At the age of 33, he returned to school at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) to earn his 150GT master’s certificate. Juggling part-time classes in winter posed a significant challenge, compounded by his dyslexia and having dropped out of school at 15. Despite failing his first exam twice, Steven remained determined, driven by the desire to set a positive example for his daughters. Through perseverance, he overcame his obstacles and successfully passed the exams.

Today, Steven Stark stands as one of the prominent employers within the Tsawwassen First Nation community. In 2011, he established Stark Transportation, which was later rebranded in 2015 as Tsawwassen Shuttles Inc. (TSI). TSI has garnered accolades for its exceptional services in land and marine transportation, serving schools, construction sites, corporate clients, and the tourism industry. Recent expansions include providing street sweeping and water truck services for commercial, industrial, and residential properties.

Alongside his business ventures, Steven has been an esteemed legislator with the Tsawwassen First Nation government since 2011, serving on the Executive Council for 1.5 years. He believes that the growth of a nation lies in the well-being of its children and emphasizes the importance of cultural understanding, language, and traditions in the process of “nation-building.” As a leader, Steven’s guiding principles revolve around family, culture, integrity, fairness, equality, and transparency.

Given the personal obstacles he has surmounted, Steven firmly believes in the power of hard work and second chances. He acknowledges that many individuals, particularly within Indigenous communities across Canada, face marginalization, abuse, and trauma. By sharing his own story, Steven hopes to inspire others to hit the reset button and pursue their dreams, regardless of the daunting challenges they may encounter. He firmly believes that darkness can be overcome and actively seeks opportunities to support his community through charity, government initiatives, employment, training, and business opportunities. Steven’s philosophy can be summed up in his own words: “Persistence Overcomes Resistance.”