Canada’s first airline to be founded and owned by an Indigenous woman is all clear for takeoff.
Iskwew Air, located out of Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal, officially launched on Friday, in honour of International Women’s Day.
CEO Teara Fraser and her eight-seat Piper Navajo will provide charter flights between the Lower Mainland and smaller communities that don’t have access to frequent airline service.
Since the beginning, Fraser’s goal has been to use her airline to bolster Indigenous tourism and empower women in aviation – starting with her company’s name, Iskwew (pronounced iss-KWAY-oh), which is the Cree word for woman.
HAPPENING NOW! @IskwewAir is officially launching @YVR. Alec Dan is welcoming us in a good way to the territory of the Musqueam people’s that @IskwewAir will call home. #ItsTime @tearafraser pic.twitter.com/lhBpLjv5em
— Iskwew Air (@IskwewAir) March 8, 2019
“Indigenous women have been matriarchs, leaders, knowledge keepers, strategists, healers, and sophisticated entrepreneurs since time immemorial,” said Fraser, who is Metis, in a news release.
“By including and amplifying these important and powerful voices, we can see a whole new future full of innovation, strength and economic prosperity.”
During Friday’s launch, Fraser also announced an initiative to inspire Indigenous youth to explore a career in aviation.
Through events around the province, the Give Them Wings program will give youth and their families the opportunity to learn more about aviation and what it takes to be a pilot.
BC Aviation Council chair Heather Bell said encouraging and recruiting young people is a key piece to reversing “a looming human resource shortage” in the industry.
“There is potential for this shortage to have significant impacts on Indigenous communities, should commercial providers find themselves unable to service remote and northern routes,” she said. “The need is real, the time is now. It is vital that programs like Give Them Wings exist.”