1st Indigenous woman to start Canadian airline looks to B.C.’s remote regions

1st Indigenous woman to start Canadian airline looks to B.C.’s remote regions

Teara Fraser is the first Indigenous woman in Canada to start her own airline, called Iskwew Air

Teara Fraser is used to being a rarity in Canada’s aviation industry.

Having flown for 15 years, Fraser is one of just six per cent of female pilots who exist in Canada. Becoming owner of Kisik Aerial Survey garnered her entry into another rather exclusive club: being a women CEO at an aviation-related company.

But this year, Fraser, who’s Metis, reached a new milestone as the first-ever Indigenous woman in Canada to start an airline from scratch.

“I’m so excited and proud of our vision, connecting people with each other and to the land,” she told Black Press Media outside of the South Terminal at YVR International Airport.

Iskwew Air (pronounced ISS-KWAYY-YO) is expected to take flight on March 8, or International Women’s Day. It’s one of the many facets that intertwine the power of womanhood into Fraser’s company.

“Iskwew is the Cree word for women,” she explained. “We celebrate all women and those who are lifting women.”

It will launch with one aircraft, an eight-seat Piper Navajo. Fraser said the plan is to start small, taking passengers to smaller communities outside of the Lower Mainland, that don’t have access to frequent airline services.

“This is an aircraft that can operate on smaller strips, even unimproved strips, and be able to access some of those small communities.”

Inspiration to earn a pilots license started in Africa

Fraser said it was a trip on a small plane over the plains of Botswana, Africa in 2002 that ignited the light inside her to pursue flight.

“It was the first time I had really travelled anywhere,” Fraser said. She was intrigued by how the land looked from the perspective of the sky

“I was so inspired, and after that trip I thought ‘oh, I wanna become a pilot.’”

A year later, Fraser achieved her commercial pilot’s license. In the years that followed she flew for Terrace-based Hawkair and started Kisik Aerial Survey, which she recently sold.

Fraser has many connections to Western Canada. She grew up in the fly-in-fly-out community of Fort Chipewyan, Alta., before living in northern B.C. and finally raising her children in the Lower Mainland.

Along the way, Fraser has held onto a special interest in promoting Indigenous youth and women – a passion she now folds into her everyday work.

“For a little girl that was maybe inspired to get her own wings, I would say follow your dreams, don’t let anything get in your way and if you dream it, design it and do it, you can make the impossible possible,” she said. “So just get busy.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local MLA Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip Nation, here seen before the 2020 provincial election, said a new report finding “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system does not surprise Indigenous people. (Hansard TV)
MLA, Tsartlip member says ‘silo’ approach won’t work dealing with racism in health care

Adam Olsen calls for comprehensive approach in dealing with systemic racism

Aragon Properties’ proposed development for the corner of Cook and Pendergast streets in Cook Street Village was voted down by Victoria city council on Thursday night after a public hearing. (File contributed/ City of Victoria)
Lack of affordable housing spells end for Cook Street Village project in Victoria

Council narrowly defeats proposal for four-storey building on former Pic-A-Flic Video site

The University of Victoria will mark the eighth annual Giving Tuesday with its Add Sprinkles campaign which collects funds to support various student initiatives across campus. (Photo courtesy UVic Photo Services)
Nearly 150 Greater Victoria groups prepare for eighth annual Giving Tuesday

Last year Canadians raised nearly $22 million in 24 hours

A man was issued a $230 fine after refusing to wear a mask inside a Central Saanich business. (Central Saanich Police Services/Twitter)
Man issued fine after refusing to mask up in Central Saanich business

$230 ticket issued under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act

A report by investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in a report released Monday.
Peninsula hospital one where ‘significant work underway’ to repair Indigenous relations

Investigation finds ‘widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people’ in provincial health care

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Left to right: A screenshot of NTC nurse navigator Lesley Cerney, FNHA regional mental health manager Georjeana Paterson and Island Health’s medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns addressing Ehattesaht community members from Ehatis reserve in a Facebook live update. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Medical team sent to Ehatis reserve near Zeballos to guide community through COVID outbreak

17 cases, eight recoveries and no hospitalizations as Island Health praises First Nation’s response

Most Read