ARCHIVED - Success Reaches New Heights with First Air

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First Air  is the leading airline of the Canadian North, transporting over 200,000 passengers and 20,000,000 kilograms of cargo to northern destinations each year. This innovative airline has been in operation for over 64 years and now serves 30 northern communities with connections to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal.

(Photo by: Makivik. Makivik Archives)

The significance of this airline is found in its 100 per cent Inuit-ownership. The Makivik Corporation , an Inuit-owned enterprise, was able to purchase First Air in 1990 with land-claim compensation funds transferred to Inuit of Northern Quebec following the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) of 1975. This historical land-claim agreement awarded $225 million to the James Bay Cree and Inuit of Northern Quebec, paid out by the governments of Canada and Quebec. With the monies received from the JBNQA, the Makivik Corporation has been able to acquire several businesses that help sustain life in the North.

Negotiations of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. (Photo by: Makivik. Makivik Archives)

The Makivik Corporation has been able to utilize the success of First Air to improve the lives of Inuit in the North. "A key strategy for Makivik's First Air is to support all aboriginal groups in all the communities we serve," explains Chris Ferris, Vice President of Marketing & Sales for First Air. "We do this with meaningful employment opportunities, investment in infrastructure, sponsorships and discounted transportation for beneficiary groups in the regions we serve." As the largest carrier of food cargo to northern communities in Canada, the airline continues to support the North. "Last year, First Air acquired a Boeing 767 for the primary purpose of providing northern communities with shipments of food, five days a week, year round," Ferris gladly reports.

First Air. (Photo by: Makivik. Makivik Archives)

"First Air is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. We employ over 450 Northerners, of which approximately 25 per cent are Aboriginal," says Ferris. "This year, we are working to increase our Inuit employment throughout our network of operations. We will be hosting an open house in Iqaluit later this year to showcase the vast array of employment opportunities with First Air." 

Following the Makivik Corporation's purchase of First Air, the airline has continued to grow. First Air has been able to expand its fleet, and the communities it serves through the acquisition of Ptarmigan Airways and NWT Air. "Through offering efficient services, opportunities for economic development, meaningful employment and community reinvestment, First Air continues to be the leader in northern transportation services," says Scott Bateman, President & C.E.O. of First Air.

Businesses like First Air help to improve the lives of Northerners in Canada. Dedication to Aboriginal employment and keeping the needs of Northerners a priority is what flies First Air above the competition.


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