Chief Byron Louis of the Okanagan Indian Band has announced the band’s group of companies has entered into a public-private-community partnership with two firms toward the first Indigenous owned and operated water utility in Canada. (Black Press file photo)

Chief Byron Louis of the Okanagan Indian Band has announced the band’s group of companies has entered into a public-private-community partnership with two firms toward the first Indigenous owned and operated water utility in Canada. (Black Press file photo)

Deal moves Okanagan Indian Band closer to its own water utility operation

Deal with two companies puts band closer to first Indigenous owned and operated water utility

The first Indigenous owned and operated water utility in Canada developed by way of Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP), is a step closer to reality.

The Okanagan Indian Band Group of Companies (OKIB GC) has signed an agreement with EPCOR and Enterprise Canada. The deal will see the companies identify commercial opportunities in utilities-related infrastructure including water, wastewater and irrigation management systems that will provide quality drinking water and ensure an adequate firefighting supply to serve the OKIB’s reserve lands.

The PPCP takes the traditional Public-Private Partnership model, formed between governments and the private sector, and involves the impacted community or communities at the beginning of the decision-making process. This approach enables communities to direct and benefit from initiatives in their region as a full project partner.

The OKIB GC water utility will lead to skills training and employment opportunities for community members, in clear alignment with the fundamental right of self-determination for First Nations peoples in Canada. The professional partnership will support ongoing business arrangements to further socio-economic development 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 OKIB Chief Byron Louis. “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.”

EPCOR senior vice-president of commercial services Stephen Stanley said his company is committed to exploring opportunities that see First Nations communities become active partners in projects that deliver essential services and generate economic benefits for their communities.

“Our work with Okanagan Indian Band will realize this potential, while developing First Nations’ capacity in utility operations and management, helping to build a strong and prosperous future,” said Stanley.

Barbara Fox, CEO of Enterprise Canada, is excited to work with both partners on “this exciting new venture with the community at the helm of the decision-making table.”

“We firmly believe partnerships like this are the future of improved opportunities for Indigenous communities,” said Fox. “Drawing on our relationships with communities, corporations and government at all levels, Enterprise is in a prime position to bring together the right mix of people and financing and move this project forward to the next phase of development.”

The partners will, in the coming weeks and months, formalize the utility’s corporate and financing structures with blended financing options, and formulate a community human resources inventory. That will identify and develop technical and managerial skills among community members, especially women, interested in taking part in this opportunity.

READ MORE: Drinking water improvements in progress for Okanagan Indian Band residents

READ MORE: Housing develops for Okanagan Indian Band members

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