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First Indigenous woman-owned airline takes Islanders to Vancouver

The first Indigenous woman-owned airline in Canada is soaring to new heights, taking Vancouver Islanders to Vancouver and vice-versa.

Iskwew Air has announced its first scheduled service between Qualicum Beach Airport and Vancouver International Airport (YVR). They say customers can start booking tickets through their website sometime this month.

“We have been working towards this for a long time, this is a very exciting day,” explains airline founder and Métis bridge builder, Teara Fraser.

According to the airline, staff noticed a need to bring their services to the Island, especially with no scheduled service at Qualicum Beach Airport since April of last year.

To gauge how they could serve the community, Iskwew staff engaged with locals and those in surrounding areas through surveys and a community engagement session held in June.

The session led to ‘overwhelming’ interest, with people highly anticipating the flight service, voicing their support while recognizing how important air service is for travel, tourism, connecting family, and getting to medical appointments.

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“The town has been working diligently to provide regular airline service to and from Qualicum Beach and we are pleased that Iskwew Air will begin flying out of the Qualicum Beach Airport. They will be a valuable addition to our town,” says Mayor Brian Wiese.

Indigenous Tourism BC, through a partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, is delivering $5-million in grants to 140 Indigenous tourism businesses through the BC Tourism Indigenous Recovery Fund. Iskwew Air is using its grant to launch scheduled service between Qualicum Beach and YVR.

“It is powerful to see Matriarchs create opportunities to support tourism and connect communities,” Tourism Minister Melanie Mark says. “Our government is happy to provide grants through the BC Indigenous Tourism Recovery Fund Program to contribute to the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.”

Mark says she’s ‘so proud’ of the work that Fraser – Iskwew Air’s Matriarch, pilot, and founder – is doing in connecting people to each other and the land. “Building meaningful partnerships with one another and the land is reconciliation in action,” she adds.

Iskwew (pronounced ISS-KWAY-YO) is the Cree word for woman. This word was chosen as the name as an ‘intentional act’ of the reclamation of womanhood, matriarchal leadership, and language.

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