From collaboration to reconciliation: the Lil’wat Nation’s plan for economic development
For the Lil’wat Nation, its business partnership with a Pemberton construction company is a step toward reconciliation
Midway up Blackcomb Mountain, a team from Murphy Construction Corp. is building a 23,000-square-foot storage barn for a new 10-person gondola that is expected to have the highest capacity in North America. The development is part of $66 million in upgrades taking place at Whistler Blackcomb in 2018 and 2019.
For a logistically challenging project of this kind—on a ski hill, with tough weather conditions and a tight time frame— Graham Murphy, CEO of the Pemberton-based construction company, says using a subtrade to do the work would have been the surest solution. Instead, he invoked the partnership his business developed with the Lil’wat Nation, 10 kilometres east of Pemberton, aimed at giving its members training, mentorship and employment in the construction industry.
About 90 percent of the Lil’wat crew of 26 hadn’t worked on commercial concrete until the gondola project, Murphy estimates. “Right now they’re exceeding expectations,” he says, noting that without the agreement they wouldn’t have had this opportunity.
The collaboration, which won a BC Economic Development Award this past summer, was formalized in 2014, after Murphy Construction responded to Lil’wat’s request for proposals. The Nation of about 1,600 members was looking for opportunities to support the community and generate income, says Ernest Armann, its chief operations officer. “We have shared interests in the community and seeing our families be successful,” he explains. “The partnership with Murphy makes sense.”
It’s also an example of how business and reconciliation go together. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada recommends that the corporate sector build respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples, provide them with access to training and educational opportunities, and help communities gain