By Craig Richmond, President & CEO, YVR
Today is Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day, a time where we celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of our nation’s Aboriginal peoples. For YVR, this day is an opportunity to not only celebrate the diverse communities we serve, but also marks the one-year anniversary of our historic, 30-year Musqueam Indian Band - YVR Airport Sustainability & Friendship Agreement.
At this time last year, I sat down with Chief Wayne Sparrow and signed a document that represented a big step forward for our airport and the Musqueam people. It was the culmination of decades of collaboration and a year of negotiating, where YVR and Musqueam leaders came together and worked toward a common goal of improving our airport for everyone. We sought to strike a balance between the needs of the airport and the needs of Musqueam and what we got, incredibly, was a new way forward that will change us both.
The agreement contains a range of benefits for both parties, including Musqueam support for YVR’s long-term development, scholarships and jobs for Musqueam people, as well as revenue-sharing. And I’m happy to say that many of these are moving along nicely. For instance, in 2017 Musqueam received the first revenue sharing installment from YVR, valued at $5.3 million (one per cent of our revenue). Shortly after, we hired Mary Point from Musqueam as the agreement’s Relationship Manager—a crucial role that ensures we implement the agreement and bridge our cultures.
We made great progress in the first year thanks to Mary’s guidance. Together with our airport partners, we filled 25 positions with Musqueam members, with more to come. We provided eight scholarships to Musqueam people and we launched an apprenticeship program for Musqueam members. We also looked at ways we can empower Musqueam organizations and work together to improve our sustainability practices. For instance, Musqueam Fisheries and YVR’s Environment team are now working together to manage invasive plant species and improve Sea Island habitat.
And that’s just the first year. We will continue to deliver and evolve these initiatives, while launching new programs and projects under the agreement. For the second year, we are looking at how we can implement Musqueam cultural elements into the airport. We are planning to have Musqueam representatives share their culture and history through stories, music, dance and more. We are also working with our retailers to have authentic Musqueam Art and Salish Seas (seafood) products available for purchase throughout the airport.
YVR recently celebrated the groundbreaking for our new Parkade and Central Utilities Building, which are part of our 20-year, $9.1 billion initiative to expand and improve the airport. At the event, I was very honoured to share the stage with Larry Grant, a Musqueam elder who provided a traditional welcome. Larry’s presence demonstrated incredible progress for YVR and Musqueam, from lengthy negotiations just a few years back to our shared vision of a successful, thriving airport. As we build the future airport, we will work with Musqueam to ensure we remain committed to being a leader in sustainability—a community asset that protects the environment, generates opportunities and breaks new ground in what it means to work together with Indigenous peoples.