Tsleil-Waututh Nation & Domcor Health, Safety and Security

“We know where we come from and we know who we are. We are looking forward” (Tsleil-Waututh Nation Declaration, 1997). The traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) extends from the Canada/US border in the south towards Mt Garibaldi, in the north. There are three reserves on the 412,356.389 hectares of TWN’s traditional territory. In 1869, Governor Douglas assigned the name Burrard Indian Reserve #3 and the TWN were assigned the name Burrard Indian Band. The TWN have been using their traditional name since 2000. The main community is near North Vancouver; there are two other reserves at the end of Indian Arm Inlet. The community has both an elected chief and council and traditional council, the latter being a family-based system of representation by all nine family groups who are part of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Tsleil-Waututh means “People of the Inlet” in Downriver Halkomelem, their traditional language. Pre-European contact the TWN was a thriving population of 10,000 but exposure to the measles virus, which their immune system had no defense against and traditional medicine had no cure for, decimated the population. Today, however, there are about 500 TWN, half of whom live on-reserve.

Part of TWN’s territory includes highly urbanized and industrial areas. The Nation’s vision is to “find balance between values over time” – to build economic independence while enhancing and protecting lands, resources, culture and traditions. To that end, in 1992, TWN established an Economic Development Department whose mandate is to create and sustain businesses and partnerships with the end goal of providing economic growth and stability for the Nation.

In the late 1980s, the unemployment rate on the reserve was between 60% and 80%……fast forward 25 years and it’s around 3%.

Over the past couple of years TWN has formed partnerships with a number of companies, primarily those involved in all aspects of the construction industry which provides opportunities for community members to share in the benefits of projects such as the Evergreen Line.

Domcor Health, Safety & Security Inc.

Domcor Health, Safety & Security Inc., was established in 1999 as a provider of training for security services. The founder, Peter Corrado, identified an opportunity to branch out and offer training for health, rescue and traffic control personnel; the company has expanded and now has offices in five provinces.

Many industrial development clients want to develop a strong component of skilled Indigenous workers, primarily from communities near their project, but need them to be trained, certified and work under a strong Health &Safety Culture. Domcor works with the First Nation to provide the training and employment for the workers which eliminates the need for the Indigenous Partner to license, insure and create a separate company to provide these services. In some Partnership models, Domcor creates a revenue sharing agreement for the ongoing work. Domcor looks for Indigenous partners who are interested in economic development and typically have an industrial project in their territory as that is the catalyst for the services Domcor provides. Since Domcor developed its Indigenous partnership model in 2012 they have formed relationships with 17 Indigenous groups, the majority of which are in BC. When Domcor looks for Indigenous partners, they are looking for those who are interested in economic development and typically would have an industrial project in their territory.

Domcor is Certificate of Recognition (COR) certified and ISNetworld registered; in addition they are members of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) with a COMMITTED level in the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR Certification).

The Partnership

TWN and Domcor have created a business partnership to bid on construction projects to provide on-site security and safety; the partnership is currently providing traffic control services on the Evergreen rapid transit project.

The two companies met at an Aboriginal Business Match (ABM) event in 2012. ABM is an Indigenous-driven business development event that brings together leaders from Indigenous communities with the broader Indigenous and non-Indigenous business community, the non-profit sector and government agencies to meet, discuss and potentially develop economic opportunities.

Debbie Shea, Vice President Operations, Indigenous Liaison, Domcor says “It was our first year attending, our business was new to this circuit so I was new to it as well. I met Lori Simcox, Senior Project Manager/Internal Management Consultant, TWN Economic Development, and the interview was unlike any other I had experienced – Lori was very professional, very precise and knew exactly what she was looking for in terms of her community.

Domcor Debbie Shea, Leonard George, Lori Simcox

Debbie Shea, Leonard George and Lori Simcox.

As a result of the ABM, I was then asked to give a presentation on who we are and what we do to Lori and Leonard George, Director of TWN Economic Development; they then provided information on how they do their due diligence on potential partners and since then we have been partners on a number of projects. It’s been a great relationship, they are excellent partners and it’s very beneficial to Domcor to have TWN as a partner. The Tsleil-Waututh are very proactive and creative in identifying opportunities for revenue. They also create synergies between their partners as well which increases opportunities for everyone involved.”

It took about a year for the two groups to get to know one another, identify common goals and fully develop the partnership. There weren’t any real hurdles or challenges to overcome as both groups approached the relationship building process with the common goal of forming a partnership that provided mutual benefits.

Lori Simcox says “We really spent some time, about a year, building the relationship with Domcor. We wanted to be sure Domcor met the values of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. It takes time to create an agreement that works the best for both parties.” Domcor did not meet with the community as part of the screening process but there were job fairs in the community for TWN partners to meet community members and present training and employment opportunities for those interested.

Benefits to Tsleil-Waututh First Nation

  • Revenue
  • Skills Training
  • Job creation (12 jobs in the past year on the Evergreen Line construction project)

Benefits to Domcor Health, Safety & Security

  • Opportunities to be involved in major projects that they otherwise would not have access to
  • Recognition as a respected business partner with First Nations

“It’s been so rewarding, professionally and personally. The opportunity to be able to be involved in so many different cultures has been incredibly exciting and educational. As a company we are industry based service provider and it’s such a good fit. The model has really taken off and it’s amazing,” says Shea.

Lessons learned from Domcor:

Best piece of advice for corporations who want to form partnerships with First Nations:

  • Know your partner – understand each community, its capacity, its needs and goals
  • Be aware of challenges and barriers that may stand between community members and employment and training
  • Take the time to build the relationship
  • Take the initiative to support your joint venture partner, go after additional opportunities – bring value to the relationship

Best piece of advice for First Nation communities who may be interested in developing partnerships with industry:

  • Partners goals and values should align
  • Use your partners to approach industry and prove you are capable and interested in opportunities – be proactive
  • Not all partners are the same so get references and do your research – from both industry and other Indigenous groups
  • No matter where you are in your Economic Development cycle, reach out to experienced and reputable partners to assist the process for support and opportunities

Lessons learned from TWN:

Best piece of advice for other First Nation communities who may be interested in developing partnerships with industry:

  • Find companies that have the same business values
  • Ensure you develop a business relationship built on trust

Best piece of advice for corporations who want to form partnerships with First Nations:

  • Do your research into the First Nation you want to work with
  • Know what business they are interested in
  • Recognize that the business/partnership interests of First Nations vary – not all First Nations have the same goals, needs
  • Build your business so that it provides benefits to the community in several ways