Lheidli T’enneh Nation and Britco

Lheidli T’enneh –“The People from the Confluence of Two Rivers”. The traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh – 4.3 million hectares – stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Interior Plains and includes the City of Prince George; the two rivers are the Nechako and Fraser. Approximately 1,183 hectares of Lheidli T’enneh land are located within the boundaries of Prince George. The centre of the city sits on land that was originally the Fort George Indian reserve, established in 1892.

The Nation has 320 members, approximately 100 of whom live on the Shelley reserve, about 20 kms northeast of Prince George, while the majority live in Prince George. The Lheidli traditionally were hunter gatherers – they hunted, trapped, fished and picked berries, and moved between dwellings, depending on the season. The food gathered during the seasons was preserved for consumption in the lean winter months. Situated as they were at the confluence of two major rivers, fish was the primary source of food.

When the Canada Winter Games come to Prince George in 2015 it will mark the first time in the 48 year history of the Games that an official host First Nation has been designated – the Lheidli T’enneh bear that honour. Another first time in history associated with the Games is the fact that the Lheidli T’enneh’s flag is now being flown within the City’s limits in the run up to the Games.

Britco

Founded in 1977, Britco has grown into one of the largest modular construction companies in the industry with approximately 1,000 employees. In Canada, Britco has modular construction facilities in Penticton, Edmonton and Agassiz, as well as strategically located regional branch offices. Britco designs and builds a wide variety of temporary and permanent buildings, including workforce accommodations, motels, seniors’ housing, office complexes, daycare facilities, classrooms, construction site buildings and sales centres, and also offers turn-key construction project management services.

As an Official Sponsor of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, which will be held in Prince George, Britco will provide contributions in kind for the Host Society’s modular building requirements. After the Games, four of the modular buildings will be transformed into fully furnished libraries and donated to First Nation communities in northern BC as a legacy project for the Winter Games. This initiative is similar to Britco’s Olympic Legacy Project following the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in which ten modular buildings supplied by Britco for the Games were transformed into libraries for remote BC First Nation communities.

Britco has seven partnerships with First Nations in western Canada, with more in development. “Many of our clients have operations in northern BC. If you are working in that area then you come into contact with First Nations and that contact has influenced our corporate culture and the way we do business. In addition, 10% of our workforce across Canada are Indigenous,” says Kareem Allam, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Indigenous Relations at Britco

Lheidli T’enneh Nation & Britco

One of the recent partnerships between Britco and a First Nation is the one inked in December 2013 with the Lheidli T’enneh. The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a joint venture modular building rental and workforce accommodation business. The focus of the partnership is to supply modular buildings to the growing number of major projects proposed for the Lheidli T’enneh traditional territory and Northern BC.

When Britco opened the Prince George branch office, they didn’t have any contacts in the town or in the local, booming construction sector. That all changed when they signed the MOU with Lheidli T’enneh. “All of a sudden, we were part of the community. The Lheidli T’enneh are members of the Chamber of Commerce, and they know all the developers, so as their partner; they are great advocates of our business,” says Allam.

Benefits to First Nation partner

  • Revenue stream
  • Sub-contracting opportunities for partner owned businesses
  • Opportunity for training and employment
  • Scholarships (Britco works with Indspire to provide a scholarship to one student from each First Nation partner)

Benefits to Britco

  • Established, well connected business savvy partners
  • Business contacts for new opportunities
  • Access to local knowledge that improves sustainability and appeal to local communities

Lessons Learned from Britco’s perspective:

What best pieces of advice can you give corporations that want to form partnerships with First Nations on resource projects?

  • You are not going to compete in British Columbia as a business if you are not signing partnerships with First Nations
  • First Nations own a major portion of the land base in British Columbia so if you need land for your operation, you need to partner with the associated First Nation
  • If you are opening an office in a new community, your best connected partner is a First Nation as they are connected with the business community and the foundations and charities of that community

What best pieces of advice can you give to First Nation communities that may be interested in developing similar partnerships on resource projects?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you are worth – you are a valuable partner