The first Khowutzun Development Corp. contract has been negotiated and approved for trucking services on the $1.45 billion Cowichan District Hospital replacement project.
“This is a step in the right direction towards economic reconciliation and acknowledges that systems excluding Indigenous participation are no longer acceptable,” Chief Lydia Hwitsum said in a statement Monday.
The agreement is a sub–contract with one of the contractors on the project. It follows a months-long effort by Cowichan Tribes and its development arm to win work for band members’ companies. Work is already underway at the hospital site.
Under the deal, trucking services will be delivered for three months, with the possibility of an extension, Hwitsum said.
“Our truck drivers are looking forward to being on the Cowichan District Hospital construction site later this week to start this short-term sub-contract,” said Jodee Dick, chief executive of Khowutzun Development Corp.
Dick said the development corporation is also working to secure civil and earth works contracts.
The issue of hiring firms owned by First Nations members arose after a company owner said he was not permitted to continue land clearing on the hospital site late last year because his company was not a union operation. That company is not the one doing the three-month contract.
The trucking sub-contract was approved by the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council and the Crown corporation B.C. Infrastructure Benefits which provides skilled trades under community benefit agreements for public projects.
Greg Johnson, spokesman for B.C. Infrastructure Benefits said the Crown corporation and the union group agreed that the work can proceed according to the contract negotiated with the sub-contractor.
“BCIB is happy to be working alongside KDC on this project,” he said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix told the legislature this month that Khowutzun companies were eligible to work on the hospital project without changing their workforce.
Cowichan Tribes members businesses have the capacity to contribute to the hospital project, said Hwitsum, who is hoping that more contracts follow. “We look forward to a more inclusive process going forward.”
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