How YVR and the Musqueam forged a working relationship
The Musqueam and YVR Sustainability and Friendship Agreement has provided jobs, opportunities for band members
When Mary Point was hired last year as manager of Indigenous relations at Vancouver International Airport, she stepped into a position created to bridge the airport community with the Musqueam band, on whose land the airport sits.
The two sides haven't always seen eye to eye, ever since the first runway displaced band members from their homes in 1931.
Point's job is to manage the Musqueam and YVR Sustainability and Friendship Agreement, which she says has been a success since it was signed in 2017.
"It's the first time our chief said that the Musqueam felt really listened to and involved," Point said.
That agreement has given members of the First Nation employment opportunities at YVR. More than 90 band members are now employed directly by the airport or have contract work there.
Point, herself a band member, believes the agreement and the opportunities it offers is a great example of what can happen when a big company and an Indigenous community work together.
"I think there are probably a lot of really great agreements out there between corporations and First Nations, but they're just sitting in a file drawer. This agreement is alive every minute of every day," Point said, referring to the many jobs it has given the community.
"We're all involved and working together and that's what makes a difference between this agreement and others."
By trade, John Grant is an electrician and carpenter. Out of work, the Musqueam band member was at the airport one day when he says Point recruited him.
"She asked me if I needed a job and I said, 'Yep,' and then what happened I applied and she hired me the next day."
Grant now works in security for parking and ground transportation.
Part of the agreement, which took two years to negotiate, is to provide opportunities for Musqueam people to "come and work on the land their ancestors once lived on," Point says.
That includes a chance for Musqueam artists to showcase and sell their creations in the airport's gift shops and duty-free stores.
Point is also responsible for ensuring band protocol is followed when Indigenous events take place at the airport.
Point says she is often asked by Indigenous groups and corporations how the airport and Musqueam maintain such a good relationship.
It's simple, she says: "The airport made a very good decision to start with the people of the land."
Vancouver airport employs approximately 24,000 people.