When I started plumbing in 1990, I was probably the only Indigenous person going through the Red Seal Journeyman course. It was intimidating, but any inhibitions or feelings of loneliness I had were overwhelmed by my drive to become a tradesman. And there were others ahead of me. I got to work with the first Indigenous journeyman Red Seal plumber. It was really ground-breaking for me to witness that. It’s important to see people like you pave the way.
Indigenous trades[people] up to now have mostly worked labour jobs. Skilled Indigenous workers have been far and few between because there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for us.
It’s great to see some of the Indigenous workers I know around here working on the hospital job site. It’s really good.
I’m rubbing elbows with senior staff, and they’re listening to me for my background and my experience. These guys are looking across the table at me like an equal and saying, ‘I’m so glad you’re on this project.’ It’s a rarity, as opposed to looking at one of us and saying, ‘Well, you’re here- push a broom and that’s pretty much it.’
It means everything to me to be on a big project like this close to home. Everything. I’ve worked most of my big industry jobs off-reserve. I worked in a copper and gold mine in northern BC and in the gas industry in gas utilities. I never got that opportunity here at home. I’m 60-years old and until now, I’ve never had a multi-year job before this one and I’m definitely interested in working from beginning to end.
I want to be a part of this caliber of work. I see it as a means of getting my son fully certified in the trade. I’m at the tail end of my time. I think if what I’m doing right now paves the way for both my sons to get the trade certification, that’s the least I could do – make sure that they get the certification and they never want for anything later on. I’ve always held a certificate and it’s always paid dividends for me.
My older son, Bubba Jr, and I will be working side by side on this project. He was just a youngster when I started in plumbing. Even as an apprentice he would accompany me as a young boy. He’s his own contractor, now. He’s multi-skilled and does beautiful work. It’s second to none for sure. My younger son is installing commercial sprinkler systems in the Lower Mainland right now and I’d really love to get him home to work on the hospital job. I want to be working with my sons.
I’m glad my sons are going to be working somewhere where they were really accepted and recognized for their skill abilities.
By Bubba Qwulshemut