Noel Desjarlais and Dwight Ballantyne talk to kids in northern reserves. (Contributed)

Noel Desjarlais and Dwight Ballantyne talk to kids in northern reserves. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge group gives back to northern places

Teaching how to grow in isolated First Nations reserves

If your washing machine breaks down and you’re four and a half hours away on a gravel road from the nearest town, what do you do?

What if you just want to grab a coffee and chat for a few minutes, except that you can’t, because there is no store, coffee shop or mall of any kind, literally nowhere to go, in the isolated First Nations reserves in Western Canada.

Thought about getting a driver’s licence?

How do you do that if you’re so far into the wilderness, it takes a day to get a motor vehicle office?

Maple Ridge resident Denise Trottier learned that firsthand this fall after visiting three northern reserves, hours away on dirt roads in sub-arctic Canada.

From an outsider’s perspective, Trottier said that poverty would be the first thing people would notice. “When you travel into these communities, it is typical to see small houses, with boarded windows that cannot be fixed due to lack of funds, gravel roads, no sidewalks, no street lights.”

She said most communities have one store but there’s generally no other businesses.

Yet, “I think we’ve never met more amazing people,” Trottier said Friday. She added that she can’t imagine how challenging it is to live where the nearest town is four and a half hours away on a gravel road.

“And yet, they do.

“I feel like everyone needs to understand what this is like in our own country,” she said.

“If everyone knew, I know that they would want to help. This is right here. It’s in our back yards.”

She’s part of The Ballantyne Project, founded by Dwight Ballantyne, who comes from Montreal Lake Cree Nation, more than four hours north of Saskatoon, Sask., on a gravel road.

After visiting a total of eight reserves by this spring, the project will have selected 15 students to take part in a month-long entrepreneurship program at the Mission Friendship Centre this June in Mission.

Students will be flown in and provided accommodation to take a month-long crash course in small business, based on a course developed by the Martin Family Initiative, started by former prime minister Paul Martin.

Read more: Maple Ridge Bird’s Nest adds a hockey focus

At the end of the course, graduates will have a business plan to take back to their reserves to start a business and improve life for them and the community.

Trottier said the intent is for residents to learn business skills then bring back their ideas to the reserve. Most people don’t want to leave, she added.

“Basically, were trying to start some sort of economic development and let them be self sufficient, all at the same time,” Trottier said.

One of the strategies for starting, is the “business in a box” concept where empty shipping containers can be trucked into a reserve and then converted into a small business premises.

So far, they’ve been to George Gordon First Nation, in northern Saskatchewan, Tootinaowaziibeeng Treaty Reserve, in Manitoba, and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (Southend) reserve in northern Saskatchewan. Next week, they’re going to Leq’a mel First Nation, near Deroche.

An RBC Foundation grant helps pay for the trips.

Ballantyne said he wants to give back to the types of places where he came from.

“I want to give back to northern communities … because I got an opportunity so I know what it’s like being on a reserve,” Ballantyne said.

Read more: B.C. First Nation builds tiny homes amid housing crisis

“Some people are comfortable on a reserve, but some people want to leave, so it’s kind of the reason why I do this is to give back and give an opportunity in any way that I can.”

He said it’s a big change to leave a reserve in northern Manitoba to spend a month in Mission.

“They’re only here for a month which won’t be too long but it will also be a test for them. The bright side is that they actually get to go back home,” Ballantyne said.

Ballentyne left his own reserve of Montreal Lake Cree Nation, an hour north of Prince Albert to join the Bird’s Nest program in 2016 which helped bring First Nations kids to Maple Ridge to upgrade their education.



pmelnychuk@mapleridgenews.com

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

 

Cold temperatures in northern reserves. (Contributed)

Cold temperatures in northern reserves. (Contributed)

Just Posted

Connie Werzun has taken up photography classes, and tok this picture along the dikes at Jerry Sulina Park one night recently. Using a seven-minute exposure, “a photo taken at night looks like it was taken during the day.” (Special to The News)
SHARE: Night photo of mountain range appears as day

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Raphael Baruh of Slavic Rolls creates one of his Eastern European desserts at the Maple Ridge food truck festival on Saturday afternoon. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Food Truck Festival in Maple Ridge this weekend

Pick the drive-through lane for the food you like at Albion Fair Grounds

Coyotes walk down a Maple Ridge residential street. (Special to The News)
Security camera shows coyotes walking down Maple Ridge street

A warning to Silver Valley residents to keep their pets indoors, says home owner

Coach Ray Wakeman and the Maple Ridge Lawn Bowling Club are looking for new members. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Maple Ridge club looking for lawn bowlers

Games have been modified for safety during COVID-19

Have an opinion you’d like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
LETTER: Would Maple Ridge councillors want cannabis store beside them?

Resident concerned about how close cannabis store is to her home

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Most Read