Many First Nations people living on reserve are exposed to mold and asbestos both at home and in their community’s public buildings. Mold and asbestos can potentially lead to severe health issues like asthma and COPD, mesothelioma, asbestosis etc.. According to reports, 40-90% of Canadian First Nation community homes have mold, that is causing serious illness, and should be condemned. Solving unhealthy indoor air problems requires money, time, commitment and suppliers who will do the job correctly focusing on long-term solutions.
Just a few years ago, James Watson,, CEO of got mold?, heard from leaders that most proposals to First Nations communities that would address indoor air contaminants were either for building new houses or simply removing the mold. Neither addressed the sources of the problems.
After visiting many Indigenous communities, talking to several residents and leaders and doing extensive research, Watson created a unique solution. He developed a training program with a difference - addressing indoor air quality issues while providing long-term employment opportunities, and helping communities become self-reliant through training.
One of the first communities to participate in the training was Smith’s Landing First Nation near Fort Smith, AB. “Unfortunately, Smith’s Landing’s mold problem is common. They’ve tried to find contractors to make the long trip there from a bigger centre but it always ends with quick fixes and no follow-up. They wanted something different,” said Watson. Since the training, Watson has travelled to Fort Smith twice for remediation projects on the First Nation and in the surrounding community.
Geronimo Paulette, Housing & Project Coordinator for Smith’s Landing First Nation, participated in the got mold? training and now has the skills to help people in his community. “Now we can test for problems before they get too big. We have already fixed a house and our Lands office. We can use got mold? as support for larger jobs.” They also have equipment to be proactive. “If we can’t get in to do the renovations right away, at least we can filter the air so people can have safe, healthy air.” When asked about the training, Paulette says, “Do it. You’ll learn how to do testing and removal the right way and you’ll have a partner to help with bigger jobs.”
The 5-day Mold Awareness Testing & Remediation Strategies Training for Indigenous Communities course (www.gotmold.ca/indigenous-training-program) focuses on training people in First Nations communities for a career in mold, asbestos and radon testing and remediation strategies. “Beyond the need to fix the mold problems, there is a huge need right now for trained employees and these communities need jobs,” said Watson. “We want to provide training so restoration can begin immediately on First Nation homes, by people in their own community. They won’t have to wait for an outside contractor to visit.” Since launching the program, Watson has completed training, testing & remediation projects with First Nation communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories.
The training is designed to be fun and interactive with lots of hands-on experience. ““From doing the inspection, to writing the proposal for remediation and restoration, this program gives the participants know-how, skills, and experience for them to get a job immediately,” says Watson. “Unfortunately, there’s so much need for people with these skills in First Nations communities in Canada.” Despite the short-term needs, Watson is taking a long-term view of the program, “It’s my goal to empower individuals who have barriers to employment with the knowledge and skills to restore homes and buildings so they’re healthy for the entire community.”
For more information on the training program or work at Smith’s Landing and other Indigenous communities, contact:
James Watson, CEO