The first Indigenous owned and operated water utility in Canada, developed by way of a Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP), is a step closer to reality. A formal agreement between the Okanagan Indian Band Group of Companies (OKIB GC), EPCOR, and Enterprise Canada was signed in November 2020.

The OKIB GC water utility will lead to skills training and employment opportunities for community members, in clear alignment with the fundamental right of self-determination for First Nations peoples in Canada. The professional partnership will support ongoing business arrangements to further socioeconomic development opportunities for the Syilx of the Okanagan Indian Band.

“This initiative brings OKIB GC in as equal partners at the decision-making tables of mainstream corporate Canada,” said Chief Byron Louis of the Okanagan Indian Band. “With shared goals, we are moving forward to invest in the economic and human resources development opportunities in our region and equipping our members with the necessary training to work with a utility owned and operated by our community.”

The companies will identify commercial opportunities in utilities-related infrastructure—including water, wastewater, and irrigation management systems—to provide quality drinking water and ensure adequate firefighting supply to serve the Okanagan Indian Band’s reserve lands.

“EPCOR is committed to exploring opportunities that see First Nations communities become active partners in projects that deliver essential services and generate economic benefits for their communities,” said Stephen Stanley, senior vice president of EPCOR Commercial Services Ltd. “Our work with Okanagan Indian Band will realize this potential, while developing First Nations’ capacity in utility operations and management, helping to build a strong and prosperous future.”

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A PPCP takes the traditional Public-Private Partnership model (or “P3”), formed between governments and the private sector, and involves the impacted community or communities at the beginning of the decision-making process. This approach enables communities to direct and benefit from initiatives in their region as a full project partner.

“We are proud to work with the OKIB GC and EPCOR on this exciting new venture with the community at the helm of the decision-making table,” added Enterprise CEO Barbara Fox. “We firmly believe partnerships like this are the future of improved opportunities for Indigenous communities. Drawing on our relationships with communities, corporations and government at all levels, Enterprise is in a prime position to bring together the right mix of people and financing and move this project forward to the next phase of development.”

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