OSOYOOS, B.C. — Work is progressing on creating the first Indigenous-owned and operated water utility in Canada after a formal agreement was signed last month between the Okanagan Indian Band Group of Companies (OKIB GC), EPCOR and Enterprise Canada.
The companies had agreed to 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.
The project is being developed using a Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP) Model. The PPCP takes the traditional public-private partnership model, formed between governments and the private sector, and includes affected groups early in discussions as a full partner.
According to Enterprise Canada, the OKIB GC water utility will help create skills training and employment opportunities for community members, and support business 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 in a statement. “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.”
According to Enterprise Canada, the details of the utility’s corporate and financing structures will be fleshed out.
One of the key goals is to create a “Community Human Resources Inventory” to identify and develop technical and managerial skills among community members, especially women, interested in participating.