Smart meter installers return to traditional territory

smart meter installers
The First Nations crew that installed 350 smart meters in Lax Kw'alaams, along with Lax Kw'alaams Smart Metering liaison Clifford Spence.

'I'm glad I had a chance to reconnect with family'

Joel Snesar hadn't been back to the Lax Kw'alaam Indian Band for 17 years. Jordan Bryant hadn't been home for 10.

"I went back to Lax Kw'alaams with mixed emotions — a lot had happened since I left," said Snesar of his return, as a smart meters installer for Corix Utilities. "When I arrived, I experienced a flood of happy childhood memories and it really felt like I was at home.

"Everyone who I met in the village was friendly and helpful — many of my family members who I hadn't seen in 17 years reached out to me and were happy to see me. I am glad I had the chance to reconnect with them."

Snesar was working in the Lower Mainland region, while Bryant was already working as an installer in the North Coast region. It was no accident that the pair got the chance to help install 350 meters in their home community, located on B.C.'s north coast near Prince Rupert.

Led by Nisga'a Nation member Adrienne Nisyok, the smart meter installation crew who travelled to Lax Kw'alaams was entirely First Nations. It's in keeping with a BC Hydro initiative to deliver employment, procurement and engagement opportunities to the 177 First Nations communities in B.C. scheduled to receive smart meters.

Corix, which worked with BC Hydro to ensure Snesar and Bryant were part of the Lax Kw'alaams installations team, employs 30 First Nations employees.

"Our First Nations employment strategy shows that BC Hydro and vendors like Corix understand the meaning of deep engagement with First Nation communities and the importance of job creation and recruitment of aboriginal community members in rural areas of B.C.," said Jeannie Cranmer, manager of Aboriginal Education and Employment Strategy for BC Hydro.

Reconnecting with a community

Smart meter installers
Joel Snesar (foreground) and Lax Kw'alaams Smart Metering Liaison Clifford Spence hard at work installing meters in Lax Kw'alaams.

What do you do when you haven't been home for 10 years?

Bryant had a definite plan for his first visit home in a decade.

"I am happy that I had a chance to be home for a couple days," he said. "My granny lives in Lax Kw'alaams and I was able to bring gifts and money for her."

Snesar is not about to wait another 17 years before going home again. He plans to take his mom back to to Lax Kw'alaams to meet more of his family and learn more about his people.

"If I hadn't had the opportunity to go back to Lax Kw'alaams to install smart meters, I don't think I would have been inspired to go home for a visit and reconnect with my First Nations roots," he says. "I am very thankful to BC Hydro and Corix for giving me the opportunity to work in my home community."

BC Hydro is installing 1.8 million new meters across the province by December 2012. Smart meters are the new standard for utilities worldwide and are a key step in modernizing B.C.'s electricity system.

These new meters will help get the lights back on faster and more safely during power outages, keep rates among the lowest in North America, enable new customer tools to manage your energy use and save money and support innovative new uses of clean electricity.