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08.31.16 / Community

Working with Aboriginal communities as partners

For more than 12 years, we’ve used our Statement of Aboriginal Principles to guide our approach to projects, day-to-day operations and all of our interactions with Aboriginal communities. These principles were initiated by Bruce Falstead, FortisBC community relations and Aboriginal initiatives manager, who was brought on board in 2001 after the construction of the Southern Crossing project in southeast BC.

“It was a very complex undertaking, which involved building a 300-kilometre natural gas pipeline crossing through many Aboriginal territories,” Bruce said. “The negotiations for land use were very difficult… we had to look at our values as a company and how we wanted to go forward, working with Aboriginal communities as partners.”

Bruce worked on the Statement for two years, consulting several local Aboriginal leaders in the process.

The Aboriginal leaders gave us very valuable, very specific recommendations, and they were surprised we were asking them… We see our relationships with Aboriginal communities as a huge strategic advantage.

Bruce Falstead FortisBC Community Relations and Aboriginal Initiatives Manager

Today, our projects benefit from Aboriginal involvement in multiple ways:

For the Lower Mainland System Upgrades project, we hired Inlailawatash, a Tsleil-Waututh Nation company, to do vegetation clearing.

For our Tilbury LNG expansion project, our civil engineering contractor is TFN Construction / Matcon Civil Joint Venture, a Tsawwassen First Nation-owned company.

We’ve engaged with four Aboriginal communities on the Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre gas pipeline project, using their traditional wisdom and present-day land-use knowledge to revise our plans.

These are just a few examples. Recently, Bruce has been focused on the Pathway to Electrical Careers Initiative, which FortisBC is part of. The goal is to develop a streamlined entry program enabling Aboriginal applicants to enter the electrical trades and help them achieve their Red Seal electrical certification. The initiative is a partnership among the Squamish Nation training centre, the Musqueam Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Electrical Joint Training Committee.  

“When we train Aboriginal people so they’re qualified for well-paying jobs, and we hire skilled Aboriginal workers, everyone wins,” Bruce says. “We strengthen our relationships with local Aboriginal communities, and we benefit from a more diverse workforce.”