Andrew Lafferty, back, with Gensita Bekale, Samara Nickerson and Ian Zoe, left to right, hold certificates for completing the remediation training program. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
Tłı̨chǫ graduates have celebrated completing a training program that will prepare them for work at the Giant Mine Remediation Project.
Five graduates completed training delivered by Kasteel Construction and Coatings in April. They then started a traineeship with QM Environmental, where they worked on the deconstruction of 30 structures across Giant Mine, mainly at the mine’s former townsite.
Just outside the townsite on Wednesday, graduates Gensita Bekale, Andrew Lafferty, Samara Nickerson and Ian Zoe each received a certificate and $500 bonus, provided by engineering and professional services firm WSP. Garrick Ekendia, who also completed the program, was unable to attend.
Bekale, named the “mum of the group” by QM Environmental supervisor Chris Stocker, received an award for best attendance. Lafferty, who Stocker described as “a great leader and mentor” with previous construction experience, was recognized for best overall performance. Both received an additional $1,000 bonus.
The initiative (full name Industrial Safety Training – Remediation Program) is a partnership between the Tłı̨chǫ Government and Mine Training Society, and is funded by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
Mine Training Society chair Steve Bonhomme said the program’s goal is to help prepare Tłı̨chǫ citizens for work at Giant’s remediation, “opening opportunities for participating in the economic benefits the project is providing here through employment.”
He added: “We all know that getting training and work experience onto one’s résumé can make a difference in a competitive hiring process.”
Wednesday’s graduates were part of the second intake of the program. A third intake is accepting applications from Tłı̨chǫ residents until August 18.
The federal government says employment at the remediation project will peak in 2031, when an estimated 260 full-time jobs will be available.
According to the project’s last annual report, northern Indigenous employees accounted for 20 percent of all hours worked on the project, below a stated goal of 25 to 35 percent.
Giant Mine is located on the traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Tłı̨chǫ, and North Slave Métis.
The federal government said in an email it is currently negotiating an economic benefits agreement related to the remediation project with the Tłı̨chǫ Government.
Ottawa said it has funded annual proposals from the Tłı̨chǫ Government to participate in the project, including socio-economic development, training and capacity-building. More than $333,000 in funding was provided during the 2022-23 fiscal year, the federal government said.
The federal government signed three agreements with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation related to the remediation project in 2021, including a community benefits agreement that promised up to $20 million over 10 years to support the First Nation’s participation in the project.