FIRST NA­TIONS

From col­lab­o­ra­tion to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion: the Lil’wat Na­tion’s plan for eco­nomic devel­op­ment

BC Business Magazine - - Contents - By Jes­sica Natale Wool­lard

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

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