The Port of Prince Rupert is within the traditional territory of the Coast Tsimshian, who have lived and traded in the area for thousands of years. The engagement and participation of local First Nations in port activity and development is critical to the success and growth of Prince Rupert’s trade gateway. The Prince Rupert Port Authority works closely with the nations of Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams and Kitkatla to ensure an alignment of interests, particularly on mutually beneficial development and the stewardship of port lands.
The Ridley Island Road, Rail & Utility Corridor presented a unique opportunity for local First Nations communities to participate in the construction of a major infrastructure project over 24 months. The bands of Metlakata and Lax Kw’alaams (through Coast Tsimshian Enterprises) partnered with JJM Construction Ltd. and Emil Anderson Construction Inc. to form Prince Rupert Constructors (PRC), a joint venture firm that was successful in bidding on a majority of the work for the RRUC. The Gitxaala Nation (Kitkatla) collaborated with ICON Construction to form Coast Industrial Construction (CiC), which completed the remainder of the work on the project. Together they built $75 million of the $97 million project, one of the largest First Nation joint ventures ever seen in Canada.
“Through this partnership, we were able to train a number of our local band members in Industry Training Authority certified programs to operate heavy machinery and equipment,” said Harold Leighton, Elected Chief of Metlakatla First Nation. “It is was a positive experience for the many members of our community that were employed on the RRUC project, and the Coast Tsimshian look forward to building a strong future for our communities through our involvement in port-related developments.”
Throughout the course of construction, employees of PRC and CiC received hundreds of hours of on-site training with various pieces of equipment, including excavators, bulldozers, rock trucks, graders, and compactors.
“The project was really beneficial to all parties concerned,” said Cameron McIntosh, General Superintendent with JJM Construction who oversaw RRUC construction on behalf of PRC. “Our partnership with Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams provided a local workforce for the project, gave them proper trade experience, and built a significant piece of port infrastructure. It was amazing to see most of our labour with little to no experience when we began the project become as good as anybody in the field at what they’re doing.”
Between the two contractors over 100 people were employed throughout the 24 month construction phase, many of whom reside in their respective villages and the Prince Rupert area.
“It was amazing to be a part of this project,” said Elaine Leighton with Prince Rupert Constructors. “I used to have to go to Vancouver for work, so it means a lot to be working alongside friends and family so close to home.”