Quality houses built by local people

Posted on March 10, 2021 in People. Tags:

Shannon Mercredi works on a house in Fond du Lac. The First Nation hired 8 youths through the First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy (FNIYES) through Indigenous Service Canada.

What started as a discussion 2 years ago has turned into 2 fourplexes, 2 duplexes, 6 family units, and potentially 14 more units next year, all built by local people in Fond du Lac. “I was having a discussion with Chief and Council one day about some housing that had been built previously,” said Bryan Smith,

Director of Operations at Points Athabasca. “They had plans to build fourplexes and duplexes for the upcoming year and asked if we could make it work with the funds they had in place. We were able to put a plan together, and construction began that spring.”

The first set of homes was completed in 2019. Points Athabasca provided a foreman and a journeyman to oversee the project. The work was completed by 9 local people. Tiffany Toutsaint, Manager of Fond du Lac First Nation LP, supplied workers from the area. “As the business arm for our community, Fond du Lac First Nation Development LP provides training and employment opportunities for our members,” says Tiffany. “This project was very beneficial because there’s employment opportunities, a chance to learn and practice carpentry skills, and it also provided some much-needed housing for 12 families.”

The 2019 projects went well, and the program was continued into the next year. 6 more units were ordered and construction began in spring 2020. “We’re building based off PAGC’s designs,” says Bryan. “These designs understand the conditions in the far north and take into account things like electric heating. Plus, the workers are really taking pride in the finished product.”

The end result is quality houses that are built to best building practices. “Sometimes houses are built with substandard vapor barrier, or less than 6 inches insulation in the walls,” says Bryan. “I’ve seen houses where the studding isn’t 16 inches on center, or some of the wiring was missing, or even missing the plug for the stove. All these things are done because it’s cheaper, but we didn’t want to do this work unless it was done right.”

Using local talent has been a key priority for the project. “Tim Fern lives in Fond du Lac and has his own electrical contracting business. We’ve been using his company wherever possible,” says Bryan. “We’ve

had 75-80% local participation throughout the project, with 100% of the entry level positions. For the workers, it’s increasing their capacity to do high end work, like drywall finishing, cabinet installation,

or flooring installation.” “The people of Fond du Lac have a strong spirit of hard work, entrepreneurship and independence,” says Tiffany. “It’s important to use local talent wherever possible for community projects like this. We’re happy to help coordinate this for companies who do work in and around our community.”

The projects have also given some of the youth experience in the construction trade. “Last summer, Tiffany provided 6 high school workers who wanted to learn carpentry work,” says Bryan. “It was great for them to get some real, hands-on experience, and it was great to spend time mentoring some of the next generation.”

The success of the projects has led to more work with others in the area. “Athabasca Denesuline Education Authority asked us to do renovations on 14 units. We’re also looking at converting 3 classrooms next to the school to teacher residences,” says Bryan. “We’ve done some work for the health

authority on the nurse residences. I think we’re getting these opportunities because of the quality of work and because of the high local participation.”

Points Athabasca will continue to pursue opportunities to help communities build housing while employing local people. Fond du Lac has asked for quotes on more housing, and there also may be opportunities to assist other communities. “For us, ‘Building Capacity’ really drives how we do business,” says Bryan. “We have an excellent track record of employing local people for projects.

Our goal in this project is to help give back to the communities that have ownership in us. Good quality houses built by local people.”