Neighours working together to open doors and provide economic opportunities.
That’s the premise behind a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed recently between the Stz’uminus First Nation and the Nanaimo Airport.
Representatives from the Stz’uminus First Nation and the Nanaimo Airport gathered March 5 at the Ladysmith Maritime Society Marine Welcome Centre to sign the MOU about working together and to eat a celebratory dinner together.
“It’s a document that finally brings together two neighbours in a spirit of friendship and partnership,” said John Craig, chair of the Nanaimo Airport Commission board of directors. “It outlines our expectations for communications and participating with each other and potential business opportunities. It also respects each other’s historical culture or business culture. I think that’s very important.”
Stz’uminus First Nation Chief John Elliott appreciates that the Nanaimo Airport is opening up its doors and treating Stz’uminus First Nation as a “true, strong partner” around economic development.
“I think it brings us together, showing that we are willing to work together, willing to build an economy together within Stz’uminus traditional territory,” he said.
“We’re building an economy that helps both the airport and Stz’uminus First Nation. It creates jobs and opportunities.”
During the MOU signing ceremony, they highlighted their intention to come together six months from now with some thoughts and ideas on where Stz’uminus First Nation and the Nanaimo Airport might work together.
“Rather than have it be a document that ends up in a drawer, this is going to be the opposite,” said Craig. “It’s going to be a call to action; we’re very serious about that, and I’m looking forward to meeting six months out on some thoughts and ideas.”
From here, Elliott sees the next step being that this MOU creates an open door for Stz’uminus that they can always come together with the Nanaimo Airport and share ideas.
“For us, it opens opportunities for growth in our area,” he said.
When he thinks about the MOU, Craig says he is most excited about working with a neighbor.
“We can’t go anywhere; they can’t go anywhere; we’re neighbours, as opposed to a lot of businesses that are transient,” he said. “We’re pretty well planted, and what better tool to have than a relationship that shows respect and communication and an openness to do business.”
For himself and for the Stz’uminus First Nation, Elliott says he is excited to show they can work together.
“I think that’s the exciting part, when you can get to a table where you can work with a partner, and they’re sincere,” he said.
“It’s not small talk; it’s serious. I can truly say I know we’re going to have a long-standing relationship around building partnerships and ensuring our children in the future can lean on this as we move forward.”