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.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, got mold? has been hosting training on several First Nations in Saskatchewan in 2021. The Touchwood Agency Tribal Council (TATC includes Muskowekwan, Gordon's, Day Star and Kawacatoose First Nations)recently hired got mold? to train people in asbestos and mold remediation and prepare them for jobs in the field. The Tribal Council recently purchased an area school to convert to office and training space for people in their community. When the renovation contractor, Aurum Developments, heard that Watson was training in the community they asked if got mold? could use the school’s gym as a training project. got mold? and Aurum worked together to craft a deal to complete the mold and asbestos remediation, give students a hands-on learning opportunity and remove a huge hurdle to the completion of the renovation project.
“TATC employed the trainees while we were doing the project and we were able to cut our costs for the remediation in half,” says Watson. “These people now have enough knowledge and experience that we can leave the job site and they get the work done on their own – safely and effectively. We are even taking them to different job sites in the area. We’re going to make some offers of employment to some of them soon.”
Watson is always impressed by the dedication and reliability of people he trains through his program. “We are always looking for hard-working, committed employees,” Watson notes. “We find people in our training courses who are reliable and resourceful. We look forward to adding them to our team so we can increase our capacity. “Once, I commented on how I appreciated their drive and one participant said, ‘No one gives us the opportunity to show what we can do.’ That it exactly why got mold? started this work – to give people a chance at meaningful work, a decent wage and a sense of accomplishment. We can’t stop now.”
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
For information on funding for training programs, contact:
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC)
Canada Mortgage & Housing – Indigenous Housing Solutions