Zibi contractor starts work on creating First Nations labour pool

About 25 tradespeople from the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki toured the Zibi site at Chaudiere Falls Monday, exploring potential employment opportunities with the Windmill Development Group’s project.

Decontie Construction, which is based on the reserve, is the Algonquin liaison general contractor for the $1.2-billion residential, commercial and retail development on Chaudiere and Albert islands.

Decontie was on site to begin building an inventory of workers for the project, which is expected to take 15 years to complete. The firm said the inventory will be an important tool to help it meet a key goal of the project – to recruit, hire, train and qualify an Algonquin-Anishinabe workforce.

The company will be helping workers through the training and certification process, ensuring they meet all labour regulations. It said “existing systemic barriers” are making it difficult for fully-qualified First Nations tradespeople to find work off the reserve.

Andrew Decontie, the firm’s founder, said the ability to work off reserves will mean the “Invisible Nation” tag will no longer apply to aboriginal people.

“My vision is to play a part in the closing of the economic gap that exists on Algonquin Anishinabe territory,” Mr. Decontie said in a statement. “I’m proud to encourage the exercise of our people’s right to self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Declaration on Indigenous People.”

“One of the most important components of our vision for Zibi is the close relationship we have built with Algonquin-Anishinabe people who share our values regarding the land, water, people and community,” Windmill founding partner Jeff Westeinde said in a statement. “Together, we’re working on initiatives that will bring tangible and lasting benefits to present and future generations of Algonquin-Anishinabe.”

The tour happened the same day the Ontario Municipal Board continued hearing an appeal against the project filed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal.