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First Nations workers protest Fairview Terminal expansion contracts going to out-of-town firms

A group of protesters gather at the entrance to Fairview Terminal in Prince Rupert. - Shaun Thomas photo
A group of protesters gather at the entrance to Fairview Terminal in Prince Rupert.
— image credit: Shaun Thomas photo

A group of First Nations workers who have seen contracts related to the expansion of Fairview Terminal go to out-of-town businesses have taken to protesting at the entrance of the terminal.

"We're protesting against the port authority. They are not holding up their end of the bargain that was put in place several years ago to employ Kitkatla, Metlakatla and Port Simpson for Phase 2 of Fairview Terminal. Fraser River Pile and Dredge got the primary contract and now we turn around and Bear Creek Contracting has the contract for the blasting and moving the material," said Don Nelson of Kitkatla, noting members of Kitkatla, Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams are all participating in the action.

"We're trying to get our people into the workforce and hold the port authority to account ... there are a lot of people who are qualified to do the job who live here."

The agreement in question was signed by the Federal Government, Prince Rupert Port Authority and Coast Tsimshian First Nations in 2011 and stated First Nations would be provided with preferred contracting opportunities associated with the development of the container terminal development.

However, Prince Rupert Port Authority manager of corporate communications Michael Gurney said the organization is living up to the 2011 deal.

"First Nations joint ventures, under the terms of the benefit agreement, do have preferential treatment, but the winning contractor needs to have a cost competitive bid. One of the bids received by one of the joint ventures, in this case, was no cost competitive so it was not chosen," he explained, adding the issue surrounding contracts being awarded is related to companies vying for work from primary contractors Fraser River Pile and Dredge and Bel Contracting.

"The terms continue to be honoured and we continue to enjoy a good relationship with First Nations joint ventures ... and have been working with them to conduct outreach to several communities in the region including potential employment opportunities."

Nelson said the group has had conversations with the port authority around this subject, but has now taken to protesting the awarding of the contracts. This is not the first time this has been an issue since the expansion of the terminal was announced, with protests also taking place in April.

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