2016 BC Aboriginal Business Award presented by the past Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, John Rustad, to Awardee Tumia Knott and Chief Marilyn Gabriel of Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group.
2017 Aboriginal Business Awards Gala Dinner
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Celebrate Aboriginal Business in British Columbia at the Ninth Annual Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The BC Aboriginal Business Awards, under the umbrella of the BC Achievement Foundation, are generously supported by New Relationship Trust, TD, Teck, BC Hydro, CN, Encana, MNPLLP, Enbridge and Vancity and are presented in partnership with the Province of British Columbia.
These Awards showcase diverse, vibrant and successful Indigenous businesses in BC while also shining a spotlight on their important and expanding role in the province. The program also provides Awardees with a platform to inspire other Indigenous entrepreneurs to excel by sharing stories of their achievements. The event brings together industry partners and offers opportunities to make connections leading to mutually beneficial collaborations.
On the podium at the 2016 Gala Presentation, Councilor Tumia Knott, President of Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group (Community-Owned Business of the Year Award Recipient) shared these thoughts: “Tonight is a celebration for all Aboriginal businesses, and from our nation to you we celebrate all the success stories and differences we are making to build wealth, success, healing and health in our communities for our next generations.”
Since 2008, the inaugural year of the program, 154 Indigenous businesses have been honoured. The unique Individual Achievement Award honouring outstanding Aboriginal business leaders has also been awarded annually since the program’s inception.
The 2017 Call for Nominations generated an ever- growing number of nominations in a variety of sectors. These reflected the remarkable and unique industries and entrepreneurial diversity within the Indigenous business community in British Columbia whether it be a young entrepreneur, a small or large business, a community-owned business or a business partnership between Aboriginal partners and the private sector.
An independent jury of Indigenous business experts adjudicated the nominations guided by the success and sustainability of the business. Awardees will be honored at a Gala Presentation event.
Join the celebration and support Indigenous entrepreneurship at the Gala Presentation Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on October 26 where over 600 guests are expected to attend.
Please visit www.bcachievement.com for further details and information on ticket purchase as well as links to past Award Gala Dinner videos and speeches.
Lloydminster Casino Rendering Photo Courtesy of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority
Lloydminster, SK –
The Border Tribal Council and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) held a sod turning ceremony today to mark the official groundbreaking for the Lloydminster casino development – this will be SIGA’s seventh entertainment destination in Saskatchewan.
Chiefs Wallace Fox and Wayne Semaganis, from Onion Lake Cree Nation and Little Pine First Nation, respectively, on behalf of the Border Tribal Council revealed plans for the Eagle Park West development and reaffirmed their eagerness to expedite construction of the new casino.
Chief Reginald Bellerose, Board Chair for the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, speaks to the key partnerships involved.
“On behalf of SIGA, we’re excited to officially be in the ground and to continue working with the Border Tribal Council to make this development a reality. This casino will not only benefit the community of Lloydminster but all First Nations of Saskatchewan, and is only possible through the positive partnerships between the FSIN, Border Tribal Council, Little Pine First Nation and the City of Lloydminster.”
The land for the development is owned by Little Pine First Nation, which is responsible for site development. The casino property will be leased to SIGA by the Border Tribal Council, the facility landlord, which will be responsible, alongside SIGA, for the facility development. SIGA will operate the casino and follow the same profit distribution model as its other six casinos as outlined in the Gaming Framework Agreement, with profits being administered by the Province of Saskatchewan.
Breaking Ground on the Lloydminster Casino ProjectPhoto Courtesy of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority
50% is shared with the First Nations Trust which is distributed to Saskatchewan First Nation communities;
25% is shared with regional Community Development Corporations (CDCs) which are situated in the casino locations and benefit local initiatives;
25% is shared with the provincial government’s General Revenue Fund.
“The new casino will have significant benefits for Lloydminster – it will create local employment, provide funding for city services, non-profit and charitable organizations, and it will support local businesses through service agreements and by attracting tourism dollars to the community,” says Zane Hansen, President and CEO, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.
Participating in the sod turning ceremony were First Nation Elders, representatives from the FSIN, Border Tribal Council, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Little Pine First Nation, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, and from various levels of government.
SIGA continues to strengthen the lives of First Nation people through employment, economic growth and community relations. SIGA operates six other casinos in Saskatchewan in North Battleford, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Yorkton and on the White Bear First Nation near Carlyle. SIGA’s casinos offer a distinctive First Nations entertainment experience that reflects the traditional aspects of First Nations heritage and hospitality.
The term Passive House – or Passivhaus in German – refers to any building typology with a low-energy construction standard that reduces heating and cooling energy through passive measures by up to 90% compared to standard construction. The objective of this design process is to drastically reduce energy consumption, while also creating excellent indoor air quality and thermal comfort levels. The methods employed to achieve this objective include:
careful consideration of the building orientation, building form, and glazing location;
use of high levels of insulation and high performance windows and doors;
elimination of thermal bridging;
assurance of building envelope airtightness; and
design of mechanical ventilation with a heat recovery system.
The premium for Passive House construction depends on building type and can range from 4% to 15%. The payback period this initial investment derives from energy savings, building durability and low maintenance costs. Government grants and utility incentive programs can also help recoup costs.
Passive house construction contains a number of qualitative paybacks such as increased thermal comfort, high acoustical performance and superior air quality. By decreasing the demand for offsite energy, there is also a significant reduction in the building’s greenhouse gas output. That combined with a healthier building environment and a more durable building, Passive House design strategy exemplifies a sustainable built future and takes a progressive stride in an uncertain energy outlook.
Passive House certification is a two-step process. The first step occurs during design. The energy performance of the building is assessed through energy modeling software from information such as site-specific climatic data, assumed occupant behavior, appropriate envelope assemblies and building form. The second step happens during the construction. Third party verification, such as Passive House Institute of US (PHIUS), ensures the built form and building systems align with the pre-approved design.
Certification is not a necessary requirement to reduce a building’s energy consumption to Passive House standards, although it is a relatively small investment to certify that energy use expectations are achieved and increases opportunities for government and or utility incentive programs.
First Nations Simpatico with Passive House Approach
The Passive House approach to building construction exemplifies a common theme of First Nations vision statements – a focus on community, health and the environment.
From a community perspective, there are multifaceted economic advantages in this construction methodology. The robust building envelope and simplified mechanical system provides a durable and low maintenance building. The reduced energy consumption is an obvious benefit; significantly enhanced when fossil fuels need to be imported into remote communities. From a health perspective the innate superior air quality and thermal comfort characteristics of a Passive House building have a huge benefit for the multi-generational occupant use of the spaces.
Passive House construction methodology limits the carbon emissions through significantly reduced energy consumption and building longevity.
Iredale Architecture Expertise in Passive House Design and Construction
Founded in 1980, Iredale Architecture is a full-service architecture firm with offices in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary. The firm’s areas of expertise include not only architecture, but also structural engineering, building envelope science, interior design, master planning, heritage rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, and LEED and Passive House certification. Iredale Architecture has been incorporating sustainable design strategies in projects since the early eighties. The firm provides cost-effective measures in green design solutions that translate into significant long-term cost savings for Clients.
Iredale Architecture is currently working on two Passive House projects for First Nations in Northern BC – the Doig River Community Church and the West Moberly Health Centre. These projects will establish new precedents in their respective typologies. Doig River Community Church will be the northern-most PHIUS certified building in North America, and the first PHIUS certified building for a First Nations community. West Moberly Health Centre will become the first PHIUS certified health centre in North America. The outcomes for both projects will be a ninety percent reduction in energy consumption over the base building standard, with healthier environments for users. The team responsible for these projects – Peter Hildebrand, Partner and Stefan Walsh, Project Manager – was involved in the development of a new Passive House window design in 2016. Trained in Passive House, Walsh contributed to the organization of the CanPHI symposium at UBC in 2014. Walsh is a member of Canada Passive House, the International Passive House Association and CanPHI West.
Doig River Community Church, Rose Prairie, BC
(Image Credit: Iredale Architecture)
West Moberly Health Centre, Moberly Lake, BC
(Image Credit: Iredale Architecture)
Powwow … chicken dancing at Blackfoot Crossing. Photo: Peter Svehla
During Easter weekend, brothers and sisters of Alberta Blackfoot reservation Siksika Nation came together during a celebratory pow-wow. The celebration was held in Siksika’s northern flats at their great pow-wow arbour. In the past, the nation held pow-wow’s at many different locations, including the Blackfoot Crossing along the Bow River where the Treaty 7 was signed back in 1877.
“That’s where we had our pow-wow before for a lot of years,” says journeyman drummer Skip Wolfleg. “It kind of moved around. In the beginning, we’d have pow-wows in old halls, a person’s house, even a barn, and this was because we weren’t allowed to actually sing our songs or pow-wow.”
Back then, there was no toleration for exhibition of traditional culture. “So y’know, we kind of went behind closed doors, kinda’ went underground. Up until about the seventies, or late sixties, then we were allowed to come out. This is when we started having different areas,” said Wolfleg.
This going-behind-closed-doors way the Blackfoot people carried themselves conserved many of their traditions. Without these kinds of efforts the ways of the Blackfoot people may have been completely wiped out by residential schooling systems and westernized law and regulation.
“Back in the early 1900s because of the Blackfoot Confederacy, we are lucky enough to have all our native traditions still active as of today,” says Troy Delaney of the Blackfoot Blood Tribe.
Delaney is a seasoned Chicken Dancer, which is a dance indigenous to the Blackfoot people. “Over the years, there have been many adaptations, and a lot of things happening in the world,” says Delaney about the Chicken Dance. “The dance almost got wiped out. But because of the language, because of the songs, because of the rattles that we dance with, and all the prayers that we have, we are lucky enough to still have it a part of our ways.”
He wears light blue and yellow traditional wear adorned with beadwork of the prairie rose. The rose is also along his head roach, which is lined with strands of beads that dangle along the ridge of his brow, hanging over his eyes. Fine peasant feathers line his skull, curving down his back into at a bustle of feathers at his tailbone.
I ask him to tell me more about the Chicken Dance. “If you ever see a real Chicken Dance – his footwork – he’s actually trying to impress the woman. In other word, he’s saying he wants the woman to be his spouse. Me and my brother, we dance proud for our wives. We dance proud for our people. We’re lucky enough we still have our women. The women are most important in the Blackfoot nation. They treat us with the most respect, and also, we treat them with the most respect. So when we dance, we bring them the joy of watching their spouse dance.”
I also ask Wolfleg to speak about what he knows about the Chicken Dance. “Sometime over our history, they say that the dance and songs were given to our people. It’s kind of like a show-off dance. What’s happening is that the male prairie chicken is trying to impress female prairie chickens out on the plains by doing these different fancy steps. It’s a neat thing to watch. We’re basically just imitating the mating ritual of the prairie chickens out there. It was given to the Blackfoots long ago, and for some reason it made us powerful and made us many. In a sense, you can say the dance and song promotes fertility.”
According to Blackfoot legend, the dance, known in the Blackfoot language as Kitokipaaskaan, came about long ago when a young Blackfoot man went out hunting on the prairies. He was hungry, and hadn’t had any food to eat for a while. He’d searched and searched, and then finally he came across some birds dancing in the tall grass. In a hungry haste, he shot an arrow at one of the birds, killing it instantly. Eager to eat, the young man brought the bird back home, cooked it, and fed himself and his family. That night, the man had a peculiar dream. In this dream, the spirit of the bird that he’d killed, which was a prairie chicken, came to him. The bird asked the young man why he had killed him, to which he replied: “I needed to feed my family”.
The prairie chicken then gave the man an ultimatum. After demonstrating the dance he was doing before he was killed, the prairie chicken told the man that he must go out and teach all the people this exact dance. If he did not do this, this prairie chicken vowed that he would come back and kill the young man. The man did so, and this is how the sacred Prairie Chicken Dance came about. (Story adapted from Blackfoot Crossing website).
The Siksika Easter pow-wow had an entire round dedicated to Chicken Dancing, and even a special dance-off between Chicken Dancers and Traditional Dancers. It was amazing to see the different adaptations of the dance, traditional wear, and see men from toddler to elder take part in the ritual. Between rounds, elders would tell stories of the dance, proudly honoring the Prairie Chicken Dance that is so integral to Blackfoot tradition.
Canada’s forest products industry is a $67 billion dollar a year industry that represents 2 per cent of Canada’s GDP, and recently hired CEO Derek Nighbor for The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) says he’s ready for the challenges that lay ahead.
First Nations Drum recently had the opportunity to meet-up with Nighbor at an event in Vancouver. We discussed his plans and initiatives including FPAC’s plans and partnerships with the Aboriginal community.
The industry is one of Canada’s largest employers, operating in 200 forest-independent communities from coast-to-coast, and directly employing 230,000 Canadians.
Nighbor was selected the new CEO for FPAC almost at the same time the new liberal government were elected.
“We’ve had a new government in Ottawa for the last 18 months so my main focus is what are the main issues facing the forest industry around trade, softwood lumber, and issues around labour,” Nighbor said. “I have spent a lot of time with issues facing us coast-to-coast, how do those issues interface around with what the Trudeau government priorities are; I think we have significant alignment with the government on issues like climate change, and healthy managed forests play a big part on fighting climate change. Also Truth and Reconciliation, we’ve done a lot of work internally on how we can do better in terms of supporting our companies with best practices on engaging with Indigenous communities, hiring Indigenous talent and working on Indigenous lands.”
Nighbor says that the main priority is how can FPAC work best with the government, and make sure the government knows what their issues are. For example, there currently is an urban government and as you know most of the forest products are in the rural areas so FPAC needs to bring forestry into the urban industry.
There is approximately 1400 Aboriginal businesses, contractors, and companies partnered wiry FPAC and, there are a little more than 17,000 jobs for the Aboriginal communities right now. Nighbor says that FPAC will be looking at the youth in the Aboriginal communities to fill in the aging workforce.
I asked Nighbor how FPAC is working closely with the youth in the Aboriginal community.
“There are two things, we sponsor a couple of Aboriginal Scholarships for Aboriginal students studying for a career in forestry, and partnering with CCAB (Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business) and awarding Aboriginal businesses for their work in forestry, and we engage our members with best practices when it comes to working with the Aboriginal businesses and contractors.”
FPAC shares their information as a national organization to companies on how they can do better in all parts of the country. They also take a close look at their hiring practices with the Aboriginal communities and focus on the cultural sensitivities, plus awareness building.
“So we play a big role in sharing collaborations on the overall big picture when it comes to working with the Aboriginal community.”
Since Canada forest products industry has the best environmental reputation in the world, according to a Lager Survey of international customers, does FPAC share their environmental standards with other countries?
“Yes, they’re jealous” Nighbor said with a smile. “We do have high levels of government ownerships of the lands, 90 percent of the trees in Canada are subjected to government rules and regulations. We have some of the best talent in the world and other countries are envious and there is a lot of interest in what Canada is doing in forestry, which is good as we sell our products around the world. The Canadian product is highly valued and trusted around the world, so that’s great for business.”
Nighbor says that forestry is a global business and he wants people to understand that our product is sustainable.
In regards to the clear-cutting issues, how does FPAC operate in this area.
“Number one, every tree that is harvested is done in very scientific and planned out way. Like I mentioned earlier, 90 per cent of the land is government related – the cuts are very planned, we need to take into consideration the species, the water and the local environment; for every tree that is cut, three are planted. The key is following the strict rules, the cuts are planned and based on science, we deal closely with the Aboriginal communities, even if you have legal right to cut in an area or on Aboriginal lands, we have to go in with good intentions because this is a long-term investment. So that’s important to have good engagement, and have good solid science knowledge when cutting.”
Nighbor grew grew up in the Upper Ottawa Valley, and had a lot of exposure, working in small mills and plants as a teenager, and his family also worked in the forest industry.
“I am also very passionate about rural issues and I understand how important these jobs are for the rural communities. There are limited job opportunities in the northern communities, and a lot of the young people have to move to the urban areas to find work. I want to be a voice for those communities and that’s why I took the job.”
Canada is ranked as the world’s second largest exporter of forest products and the sector is the second biggest contributor to Canada’s trade surplus at 20.9 billion.
The industry wants those numbers to grow. Increasing trade with new and existing markets will be necessary for a vibrant forest products sector, especially in the face of growing international competition.
The final questions I asked Nighbor was where does he see the forest industry in 20 years.
“Number one, selling our wood products to the rest of the world is a huge opportunity, there’s more opportunity in China, India, and number two, the types of product we’re producing, we’re increasingly making bio materials, wood components are being used in other goods like cosmetics, and we’re seeing a lot of new uses for wood materials.”
Nighbor finished the interview by saying, “For the Indigenous communities we’re gonna see a lot more job opportunities for the young people and working with CCAB is a good thing so we can better position ourselves on how we can tap into that young talent, that’s a huge opportunity for FPAC. It’s a truly sustainable industry and of course there will be challenges ahead of us.”
Northern Waterworks Inc. (NWI) was established in 1997 as an aboriginal owned Water Authority.
“Due to our location in Northwestern Ontario, we saw first-hand the deplorable condition of water and wastewater treatment facilities. We therefore offered services to the remote northern communities in the vicinity, that lacked access to specialized trades and expertise. We were the Operating Authority of Municipal systems, so didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We merely duplicated the municipal box we had built, and assisted interested First Nations in implementing our programs. We attempted to eliminate the two tier system that was developing in Ontario. Post Walkerton, the Provincial Government adopted legislation and accreditation to ensure the safety of residents; meanwhile, the Federal Government hadn’t kept pace.
“Our relationship with the First Nation bands we have provided services to is excellent. As an aboriginal company, we understand and appreciate the process of community outreach. We engage both the community and leadership. It is a grass roots approach. Only through commitment from the operator, up through to Chief and Council, can any program achieve success. This has proven true time and time again. If we don’t have support of Chief and Council, we will typically not submit a tender bid. To do so would be to set the program up for failure. We have numerous First Nation programs rolled out in Ontario currently. Here is a snap shot of a couple programs currently being delivered by NWI. We provide 24/7 Technical Support and First Response Services to all Ontario First Nation Communities. Through this program of the Federal Government, we have responded to and mitigated more than 400-Emergency situations throughout the Province. We have provided this since 2011.
“We have provided Annual Performance Inspections, a mandatory risk assessment of the Federal Government for the past three years. This program has us perform on-site risk assessments, of all First Nation water and wastewater systems in Ontario. So we know first hand the true condition of First Nation systems. The main advantages are the relationships, and trust built, through 20-years of continuous service. Many organizations have a habit of attempting to enter the field, after Federal announcements of impending dollars being allocated to address the issue. We have a track record of service, and stability, backed by 20-years. Another advantage is knowledge of the systems. Through provision of services Province wide, we have first hand, on the ground experience with all systems in Ontario. When there is an emergency or critical failure, these files and experience are priceless.
“Remote, fly-in communities typically have no access to specialized trades. Further, a hardware store isn’t a block away with remote communities. Therefore access to required skilled trades, and supplies does not typically exist. We maintain a stacked warehouse full of parts, materials, and supplies for just that reason. We have the ability to be on-site within hours, complete with all required parts and supplies to mitigate and rectify. Common problems with communities throughout Ontario in general include a lack of local certified operators. Over the next three years, our goal is to assist in the development of a First Nation owned Water Authorities. We are working with a First Nation group to develop, from ground up, a Water Authority developed by First Nations, for First Nations. Over 20-years, we have dynamically developed and tuned our model, allowing us to duplicate a proven model.
“With Government policy ever changing, coupled with annual funding agreements, to take on the First Nation water crisis at its root is not sustainable. Skilled and Qualified operators are typically certified at Level 3 (Ontario: Operator-In-Training, Level I, Level II, Level III, Level IV). They have typically gained their experience through operation of municipal systems, and typically have 15+ years’ experience. This means they are some of the highest certified in the Province, have 15+ years’ experience, are near the top of their pay scale, and have significant time invested into a pension plan [almost all, if not all municipalities have pension plans and attractive benefit packages].
“Due to funding mechanisms of the Federal Government, funding agreements are typically annual, and must be renewed each year. It is near impossible to attract the qualified staff required, while offering the security of “one-year term contracts”. Rightfully so, these qualified personnel are just not willing to leave the security offered through municipal employment. NWI delivered the Circuit Rider Training Program (CRTP) for two years, throughout Ontario. This is a program of the Federal Government, standardized nationally, to provide technical assistance and ‘on-the-job-training’ or OJT, to First Nation communities throughout Canada. Annually, we had to give our trainers ‘lay-off notices’ while awaiting the Governments decision to fund CRTP another year or not. Of course, each annual cycle, we lost employees during this ‘wait and see’ period. Employees, which in many cases, took years to attract in the first place.
“While attending annual CRTP conferences, we have discussed this challenge with trainers from other provinces. It is not a challenge unique to NWI. Nationally, it appears as though almost all CRTP Service Providers are short qualified staff, with no additional capacity existing. So if capacity doesn’t exist for current programs, what will happen with the proposed implementation of new standards and regulations? We are scraping the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, as is. Something needs to change… Long story short, what I am trying to say is that the system, as currently established, is destined to fail. We have tried for 20-years to work within this box, and it just doesn’t work. We are transferring our knowledge and capacity to First Nation Authorities. We are developing, in partnership with various stake holders, First Nation Water Authorities to allow NWI to focus on stable, municipal opportunities, which typically provide the stable 5-10 year contracts, allowing us to attract and retain qualified staff. Unfortunately this is the only viable model at present, and is now the objective of our 3-5 year business plan. Significant changes may be occurring behind the scenes, but I have personally not seen a change or improvement. To the contrary, in many ways, we have seen risks increase over the past couple of years.”
Osoyoos First Nations Chief Clarence Louie has proved to be a visionary when it comes to business. The Osoyoos First Nations has built a spa and resort, rented out land to wineries, and made the first native owned winery in Canada and the United States. All projects have been successful. The Osoyoos First Nation have become financially secure, and they are always open to new challenges. No one is surprised that the resort has done so well, but many are surprised that the winery has prospered since it opened 15 years ago.
The Nk’Mip Cellars has been given multiple awards since its inception, including Best Winery awards for their Icewine and Pinot Blanc. They are now one of the main wineries in Canada, and it all started by partnering up with Vincor.
Patio at Nk’Mip Cellars Winery
“We already had 300-acres of very high quality grapes, and they thought it was in our best interest to come together and make a winery,” assistant winemaker and band member Justin Hall told the CBC. “The idea was to utilize our high quality grapes and actually make wine out of them instead of selling grapes to so many people, and them all profiting from it. Why not profit from it ourselves?”
Vincor was bought out by Constellation Brands, who continued handling the corporate such as the marketing and distribution. The OIB are visited by their corporate partner twice a year to inform them of their strategies, and to discuss what new wines they are projecting for the future. “Our mandate for the winery is to produce wine off native soil,” Randy Picton told the CBC. “The band has over 1,000 acres in production, and we have about five or six different vineyards that we source grapes from. We get our cooler climate varietals from vineyards situated more northerly in the valley, and our Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc all come from the 350-acre vineyard in Oliver, which is owned and managed by OIB.”
Picton has encouraged band members to become familiar with the process of wine making, and he has recruited band members to work for Nk’Mip. Picton wants the winery to be cultural to the Osoyoos First Nation, insisting that the selection of names for their wines is influenced by their own culture. This includes their lively white wine ‘Dreamcatcher’, and their smoky red wine – named after the mythical Thunderbird – ‘Talon’.
“You never stop learning” says Picton, speaking on the wineries everyday challenges. “The different thing, from a winemaking perspective, is that you only get one shot every year. You have to wait until the next year to make changes to your program. Over the years, we’ve become more familiar with our blocks of grapes, and we have a very good understanding of the winery.”
The Osoyoos First Nations, led by their entrepreneurial Chief Clarence Louie, have successfully taken native business in a different direction. The only concern now is to maintain a level of consistency, which I am sure the OIB will handle with the pragmatism and caution they’ve carried in all of their enterprises. First Nations entrepreneurships have grown more in the last 10 years than they have in the last 100 years, and it is native leaders such as Clarence Louie that have been the difference.
By Margo Greenwood, Hilary McGregor and Julia Petrasek MacDonald
In British Columbia, Northern Health is taking up the challenge of building cultural safety for Indigenous people both within the structures and systems of the organization and at the front lines of health care delivery. This is occurring within the context of a changing landscape of First Nations health governance in the province that is initiating New Relationships. This article discusses how Northern Health is taking steps towards cultural safety and provides concrete examples.
Health Service Delivery in Northern British Columbia
The landscape of northern British Columbia (BC) is vast and diverse with a relatively sparse population. It covers approximately two-thirds of the province and is home to about 300,000 people. Approximately 18% of the population is Indigenous.
Health services in BC are funded through the Ministry of Health and delivered through five regional health authorities. Unique in the province is the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the first Indigenous-led health authority in Canada. In 2013 FNHA assumed responsibility for the health programs and services previously administered by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. This historic transfer marked a New Relationship between First Nations, the province of British Columbia, and the Canadian government. Northern First Nations, the FNHA, and NH are working together to implement the Northern First Nations Health and Wellness Plan with goals and actions to support improved First Nations peoples’ health and wellness.
Repositioning Northern Health to Build a Culturally Safe Health System for Indigenous People
Cultural safety occurs when an individual feels affirmed and respected, is able to maintain dignity, and is safe from racism and discrimination. Health care service providers—and the organizations that support them—must reflect upon, understand, and if necessary, change any routine processes, habits, or behaviours that create unsafe healthcare experiences. Realizing concepts like cultural safety require different types of initiatives, activities, and processes. Following are examples of how Northern Health has made system changes to be more culturally safe.
In 2013, the CEO and Board of NH created a Vice President of Aboriginal Health position – the first executive-level position in Aboriginal Health in the country and a significant structural change that supports incorporation of Indigenous perspectives and priorities throughout organizational structures.
In July 2015, Northern Health, along with the BC Ministry of Health, FNHA and the remaining regional health authorities, signed a Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility, providing a mandate to advance cultural humility and safety in their practices with Indigenous people in BC. Furthermore, all new leadership job descriptions include a commitment and responsibility to the goals and intent of the Northern First Nations Health and Wellness Plan.
Building cultural safety at the front-lines of health service delivery
Northern Health (NH) is committed to advancing cultural humility and safety, especially at the front-lines of health service delivery. The Aboriginal Health (AH) team supports NH employees to learn about Indigenous peoples’ histories and current realities and provides a multitude of resources for employees. For example one fact sheet provides information on how to support continuous care as First Nations patients transition from acute care settings to their homes in First Nations communities.
In addition, NH funds seats for employees in a provincially-developed online Indigenous cultural safety training course. This course provides an important introduction to colonial histories in Canada along with opportunities to critically reflect on one’s own biases and assumptions about Indigenous people. The goal is for all employees to take the course.
Aboriginal Health Improvement Committees (AHICs) are an example of NH’s commitment to strengthen and enhance relationships with Indigenous people in northern BC. AHICs bring together local NH leaders, members of Indigenous organizations and communities, and representatives from the FNHA, to collaboratively address local health priorities. To date, the work of AHICs has included patient journey and process map activities to identify and address gaps and opportunities in health care service delivery. They have also developed over 30 local cultural resources to support increased cultural learning within the health system by informing health care providers about local Indigenous community protocols, histories, experiences and needs.
The examples described in this article represent only a small glimpse into the ongoing work by Northern Health and the Aboriginal Health team in collaboration with Indigenous communities, to build a culturally safe health system for Indigenous people in northern BC. These initiatives are helping one regional health authority take meaningful action on its commitment to improve the way health care services are delivered to Indigenous people. Northern Health recognizes that meaningful transformation in the face-to-face, on-the-ground interactions between Indigenous clients and health service providers requires an organizational commitment to cultural safety at all levels.
In the Fall of 2016, Yale First Nation signed on with modular builder, Britco, to start a housing revolution.
For the past few years, Yale has been struggling to solve its housing crisis. They have a need, they have funding, but the solutions that existed did not necessary bring true affordability to the Nation’s 160 band members – specifically those that live on reserve.
Yale First Nation’s existing housing was becoming uninhabitable, with basic structural issues plaguing many members’ homes. Housing that had barely met building codes when it was built 22 years prior was now structurally unsound. Their homes were literally falling apart.
And substandard housing wasn’t the only issue for the Yale First Nation. In winter months, the majority of their community members would have difficulty paying their Hydro bill – which isn’t surprising considering the average Hydro bill last winter came in at $350. This left the Nation helping its members pay those bills and, at times, footing the bill for food and other necessities as well.
Pioneering Passive House
The housing revolution begins with two townhouse complexes for ten Yale First Nation families built to Passive House standards. Passive House standards are currently the highest standards of energy efficiency in a building available in the world today, making Yale First Nation the most energy efficient First Nation in Canada per capita once the townhouses are complete. This extreme energy efficiency will reduce energy costs by 80% and the members living in the townhouses will see and feel the difference in quality and comfort immediately.
When pairing Passive House standards with controlled off-site modular construction techniques, the quality of the building itself is drastically increased because Britco is able to oversee every step of the construction process to ensure quality and attention to detail. This style of building also helps sound-proof the units and doesn’t expose materials to inclement weather during the build.
“Poor quality and high operating costs are issues that many First Nations are facing,” said Yale First Nation Chief Ken Hansen. “We hope to help our neighboring First Nations in British Columbia overcome these issues with some of the solutions we’re working on with Britco.”
Through their work together, the Yale First Nation and Britco are striving to make quality sustainable housing with lower operating costs more accessible to Indigenous communities. In some cases, remote communities are relying on extremely costly diesel generators to heat their housing – which takes a financial toll on the Nations, as well as an environmental one.
The Greener Solution
In addition to reducing energy costs, Yale First Nation’s new Passive House townhouses will emit 80% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional housing – which aligns well with their beliefs in sustainability and stewardship.
“The lowered impact on the environment paired with the drastic savings in energy costs is a solution we hope a lot of communities will turn to,” said Chief Hansen. “We’re setting a standard for other First Nations in Canada in moving forward with this type of housing.”
Although building to Passive House techniques is new to Canada’s First Nations communities, Britco’s first Passive House project was completed in 2015 for Vancouver Coastal Health Authority in Bella Bella, British Columbia.
A Lasting Partnership
With the support of Yale First Nation, Britco is establishing new benchmarks with this project that will be viewed as an achievement never before seen in a First Nation community. Both Yale First Nation and Britco share a vision of long term sustainability, environmental responsibility, energy efficiency and economic vitality in an on-reserve housing initiative that will undoubtedly serve as a model for Indigenous communities across the province and nationwide.
“There have only been three houses built on Yale First Nation reserves in the past 22 years. The housing need is no secret and it’s one of my priorities,” said Chief Hansen. “I am proud of the staff and management at both Britco and at Yale First Nation for their dedication to this project and the development of a lasting relationship.”
As one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly residences in an Indigenous community in North America, the Yale First Nation Passive House will provide the Nation the opportunity to share their stories, successes and mentor and guide other communities through the process.
About Yale First Nation
Yale First Nation is an independent First Nation located in Yale, British Columbia, with approximately 160 band members living on and off reserve.
The Nation has 13 Staff members and a full-time, 3-person Council who, collectively, are responsible for Community Health, Band Support, Housing, Finance, Social Development, Economic Development, Education, Fisheries, Maintenance and Natural Resources.
Britco is one of the largest commercial modular construction companies in North America, providing innovative solutions to temporary and permanent residential and commercial modular buildings.
Britco offers leading design-build capabilities as well as turnkey construction management services with a focus on permanent modular construction, workforce accommodations and temporary construction site offices.
Today, AltaGas Ltd. (“AltaGas”) and Halfway River First Nation (HRFN) signed a Comprehensive Relationship Agreement. The ten-year agreement provides the framework for consultation, financial benefits, community investment, employment opportunities, and support for a wildlife study in HRFN’s traditional territory.
“This agreement supports AltaGas’ three guiding principles for developing energy infrastructure: respect the land, share the benefits, and nurture long-term relationships,” said David Harris, President and Chief Executive Officer of AltaGas. “We look forward to continuing to build a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with HRFN that recognizes and respects their values and traditions.”
“We are pleased to sign this relationship agreement with AltaGas,” said Chief Darlene Hunter of Halfway River First Nation. “By working together with AltaGas, we have developed an agreement that will benefit our community for many years to come.”
Halfway River First Nation Chief Darlene Hunter and President and CEO of AltaGas David Harris celebrate after signing a ten-year Comprehensive Relationship Agreement in Calgary. The agreement provides the framework for consultation, financial benefits, community investment, employment opportunities, and support for a wildlife study in HRFN’s traditional territory. Photographer: Todd Korol
AltaGas is constructing its Townsend Facility approximately 100 kilometres north of Fort St. John in Northeast British Columbia on HRFN territory. When completed, the Facility will include a 198 million cubic feet per day (MMscf/d) shallow-cut natural gas processing facility, a gathering pipeline, sales pipeline, two liquids egress pipelines, and a truck terminal on the Alaska Highway. The Townsend Facility is a key component of AltaGas’ Northeast British Columbia energy strategy. The Project has provided members of HRFN with employment opportunities during construction and will continue do so once operational.
“This agreement between AltaGas and the Halfway River First Nation is an important step towards sharing the prosperity that comes with natural gas development,” said the Honourable John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, for the Province of British Columbia. “The growth of a sustainable, responsible natural gas sector will bring substantial financial benefits, jobs and new business opportunities to Halfway River and other First Nations communities throughout northern B.C.”