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

Conservation: Two elk unlawfully shot in Northern Vancouver Island

‘The elk also did not have all of the edible portions of meat removed’

Nanaimo, Royal Jubilee to be Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 frontline hospitals

Other Island hospitals will be admitting COVID-19 patients and will be used in a support role

Port Hardy’s annual summer festival FILOMI Days cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Port Hardy’s biggest community celebration happens every year from July 17 to 19.

Reflecting on life during a pandemic

‘This is really a once in a lifetime moment where everything has come to a grinding halt’

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Comox spring training cancelled for Snowbirds next month

The team announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions they will not be training in the Valley

Some Cowichan schools to reopen for children of essential-services workers

Cowichan Valley will open 8 elementary schools this week

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

Physiotherapists turn to technology to reach patients during COVID-19

Just because services, jobs, and socializing have been put on hold, it… Continue reading

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

Most Read