Perspectives: Working Together For a Brighter Future with Indigenous Relations Manager Mary Point

Mary Point and Musqueam

Since the time the Musqueam people moved off Sea Island in the 1930s to make way for a new airport, the community has been trying to find their way back. After years of building relationships, listening, understanding and negotiation, Musqueam leadership and the Airport Authority signed the 30-year Musqueam Indian Band - YVR Airport Sustainability & Friendship Agreement in 2017.

Working toward the common goal of a sustainable and mutually beneficial future for both communities Three years in, the Agreement has set new paths and has brought positive change across the business, despite the recent unanticipated impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mary Point is the Manager, Indigenous Relations for YVR and a passionate driver in building a new path forward. In the years since the Agreement was signed, Mary has worked with nearly every YVR department to build strong, respectful relationships and establish foundations that pave the way for growth. Not only has Mary has helped more than 90 Musqueam find meaningful work throughout YVR, she has developed infrastructure that ensures Indigenous representation and understanding is present throughout the business.

There are such strong correlations between YVR and Musqueam values,” says Mary. “I work hard to foster relationships between the Musqueam and YVR communities I want them to know who we are and where we are – so we can build the right foundations as we walk forward together.”

“As our elder qiyəpelanəxʷ once said ‘Don’t forget who YOU are; don’t forget who WE are’ which to me is remembering who we are, as individuals, and as an Airport Authority. This is a friendship agreement; we’re neighbours, and we need to know each other,” Mary adds.

Much of Mary’s work involves setting a strong foundation across the Airport Authority and YVR as a whole - whether that’s ensuring YVR building permits incorporate a Musqueam discussion about the land, accompanying more than 195 Musqueam applicants to job interviews or building diversity practices into contracting and hiring processes.

As well, Mary shares Musqueam culture and teachings with Airport Authority employees through initiatives like having staff help carve a traditional Musqueam canoe, language classes, sharing traditional food, or bringing in artists and speakers. “People come in curious and leave changed because they know us a little better; it helps to understand why we’re all together,” she notes.

With COVID-19’s wide-reaching effects and uncertainties on the aviation industry, the strong relationships and process changes stemmed from the Sustainability & Friendship Agreement are integral in YVR’s journey to recovery.

“We’ve learned from each other, we’ve come to know each other and we’re going to rebuild together. I’m proud to see how our hard work and collaboration has had tangible results with new Musqueam businesses forming, increased employment and the shared economic impact,” Mary says. “The groundwork is there. The impacts from COVID-19 on our Musqueam workforce have been very disheartening, but I know that the internal work we’ve done, and the strong foundation we’ve built, will make recovery more achievable for everyone.”