Site Celebration on Indigenous Employment

Remarks From YFFN Councillor Louisa Constant August 2nd, 2017

Good Afternoon. I’m YFFN Councillor Louisa Constant. I’m attending today on behalf of Chief Bland, who is away on holidays. I’ve also been a member of the KHLP Board since April of this year.

We’ve learned that in the month of June, the Keeyask Project reached 2 million hours worked by members of the 4 Cree nations – and 4 million hours by Indigenous workers at Keeyask. That’s something significant. It’s a positive milestone for our people and for the Keeyask Partnership.

When York Factory signed the Joint Keeyask Development Agreement in 2009 our members experienced many mixed feelings.

  • There was reluctance to trust and work with Manitoba Hydro.
  • There was unease about becoming part of a project that would affect our water and land.
  • And there was skepticism about whether the benefits promised for our people would really appear.

There was also hope.

  • We hoped that the project would help to improve economic and social conditions in our community…
  • That we would gain a management position in a development on our lands…
  • And that our members would build skills and support their families through work on the project.

It was that hope that drove our decision to sign the JKDA and join the Keeyask Partnership.

And so I am glad today, 8 years after the JKDA was signed, to be recognizing a milestone of 2 million hours worked by the people of our 4 nations. At the KHLP Board meeting last week, we heard that 102 YFFN members are working on-site now.

Since the beginning of construction, I’ve seen many of our members find their places in the Keeyask Project. There were many success stories:

  • George Ponask – is a certified Red Seal Chef, who is helping to mentor young members through Sodexo joint-venture.
  • Amelia Saunders – at 67 years old, had found meaningful work at the Keeyask site.
  • Irah Lauzon, one of our people in electrical trade, employed now for 16 months, started residential, and has moved to commercial and industrial.
  • Women – need highlights
  • Young workers – need highlights.

These are the positive effects of the Keeyask Partnership.

Of course, like the rest of you, I’m very much aware of the struggles that remain here on site and back in the community.

I’ve heard many stories of our people being treated badly, overlooked, or discharged without compassion. The stories are the most heartbreaking when they come from our young people who have set out to take their first jobs and found that the world is not what they hoped it would be. Many of them do not know their rights, and are falling through the cracks too easily.

We want to see better.

Our Nation appreciates the resources that have gone into the workplace cultural review over the last year.

We applaud the work of our KCN site reps, the Site Liaison workers, and others who are working to improve conditions on site. Your efforts are important, and they will make a difference.

There is still a long way to come.

This Saturday, the ERS program will be leading a ceremony to acknowledge another milestone: That sturgeon and other fish can no longer move upstream over Gull Rapids.

That is an important event, and I encourage all of you to take part. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the effects that the Project is having on Askiy – and show respect to the animals that are being affected by it.

As I’ve said – when York Factory signed the JKDA in 2009, we were hoping for a project that would bring employment and benefits to our people – provide us with a voice in project management – and show respect towards Askiy.

The milestones being acknowledged this week – on employment and the environment – are important steps in making sure that Keeyask is done right.

We have come a very long way since 2009. We have a long ways to go, But we are glad to take today to recognize and celebrate the milestones that have been reached.

Ekosi.

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