With the Coastal GasLink project ramping up for one of its most important construction seasons, Indigenous advisors from the Community Workforce Accommodation Advisor (CWAA) program are back at lodges, and ready to welcome workers to their communities.
The CWAA Program launched last year and is a first-of-its-kind program designed to foster a respectful and safe relationship between workers and the local communities that host them.
“This kind of program hasn’t been done before,” said Lorisha Desjarlais, a member of the Saulteau First Nation, and one of the program’s coordinators.
“Real time, on-the-ground access to activities, wellness, and cross-cultural awareness opportunities – no other major project has done that. It means Coastal GasLink is looking to provide action to reconciliation,” she added proudly.
Destiney Michelle is one of the advisors making the program a reality. Destiney is from the Skin Tyee Nation and as part of the program, she lives in 7 Mile Lodge, a workforce accommodation located within her home community.
“I feel like I’m a pioneer,” shared Destiney. “This has never been offered on any other project that I’m aware of. Being able to support the local Nations that are giving you the opportunity to go through their territory, not just to employ them, but to let them share their history, their knowledge, their culture is a huge honour.”
Through cultural events, recreational activities, wellness challenges, and mental health support, Indigenous advisors like Destiney are creating a healthier living environment for workers at every lodge. The respect, inclusivity, and transparency they foster help make lodges a valued part of every community.
When asked what this program means to her and her community, Destiney had this to say, “it shows how we’re coming together as Nations and communities […]. It just goes to show how we’ve learned to work together and help each other. We’re given the opportunity to be heard.”
Just last month, Destiney organized a time of learning and listening at 7 Mile Lodge to commemorate National Indigenous Peoples Day. Together with her mother, Hereditary Chief Ludooks (Helen Michelle) from the Skin Tyee Nation, Destiney shared traditional knowledge on soapberry canning and plant medicine with residents of the lodge.
Learning and partnering with Indigenous communities is a core component of Coastal GasLink’s commitment to creating an extraordinary legacy of safety and respect for all people, communities, and the environment. The CWAA program is an important way the project is putting that legacy in action.
“I feel honoured to have the opportunity to share my culture, because it wasn’t always an option. We’ve come a long way to where we are today,” added Destiney.