Celebrating the communities First Air serves
It all started in 1946 when a small aviation company, Bradley Air Services, began operating a flight school out of the Ottawa Airport in Ontario. Fast forward 70 years and that small aviation company, now known as First Air, provides essential air services to many remote communities in and across Canada’s Arctic. As part of their service-based approach, First Air takes pride in participating in a number of community events across the Arctic to help give back to the communities the airline serves.
This philosophy of giving back includes economic development, cultural and educational programs and sporting events. Every year, the company selects initiatives worthy of recognition, financial help or sponsorship. Year after year, First Air proudly sponsors major community events across the Arctic. Some garner wide attention such as the Arctic Winter Games, Aboriginal Day concerts, Students on Ice, and Project North, while other events, though smaller, are just as important: youth exchanges, sports, arts and educational programs, and major fund-raising events for local charities and associations.
With 2016 being First Air’s 70th anniversary, we feature a glimpse of how the company has given back to Arctic communities over the years.
Attending region-based trade shows and conferences to support opportunities and provide important representation at sector-driven gatherings such as the Geoscience Forum held in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, are key aspects of First Air’s commitment to help develop a successful and sustainable economic future for the Arctic.
Investing in the education of youth is key to the economic development of the many Arctic destinations First Air serves every day. In 2011, First Air launched a recruitment and employment initiative called Sivurariaqnik (in Inuktitut, it describes the momentum of “going forward,” “moving ahead” or “reaching a destination”). The program targets High School students, College students and young adults, and is focused on increasing awareness of the employment opportunities available within the aviation industry and specifically First Air.
Also that year, First Air unveiled Airline Foundations, the first of several post-secondary aviation courses and youth training and development programs in cooperation with Nunavut Arctic College and 795 Iqaluit Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron.
In 2012, as part of the Sivurariaqnik Program, First Air became a sponsor of the Aviation Career Development Program (ACDP), which provided 15 scholarships of $5,000 each to support full-time training in an aviation-related career.
This year, as part of First Air’s 70th anniversary celebrations, northern youth were flown to the nation’s capital to celebrate the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Festival in June 2016. The Economic Club of Canada also held a financial literacy toolkit class for the visiting youth.
No matter what time of year, First Air is involved in many athletic events in the communities it serves, helping to develop sports in the Arctic and the camaraderie of friendly competition.
First Air has been supporting Project North since its inception in 2010. In the spring of 2015 and 2016, in addition to bringing hockey equipment to Arctic communities, First Air helped bring the iconic Stanley Cup to Canada’s Arctic. First Air was overjoyed to be part of these exciting trips that have so far travelled to Arctic Bay, Arviat, Cambridge Bay, Cape Dorset, Clyde River, Gjoa Haven, Hall Beach, Iqaluit, Igloolik, Kimmirut, Kugluktuk, Kuujjuaq, Makkovik, Nain, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, and Taloyoak. Project North has also brought soccer equipment to the communities of Kimmirut and Resolute.
In January 2013, First Air participated in the Northern Hockey Challenge (NHC), a pan northern hockey series showcasing the best in men’s hockey in the Arctic. With seven teams divided into Western and Eastern divisions, the NHC covered eight consecutive weekends in a best-of-five-games series, reaching a division champion. The Eastern and Western division champions then faced off in another best-of-five series with the top two teams in each division advancing to the playoffs to vie for the First Air Northern Hockey Challenge Cup.
Over the years, First Air has been a sponsor of many charitable golf tournaments including the Tungasuvvingat Inuit Charity Golf Tournament, The Habitat for Humanity Iqaluit Charity Golf Tournament, and the Peter Gzowski Invitational, helping to raise funds for many worthy causes, including healing centres, affordable housing and literacy.First Air has also provided aircraft for a number of Airplane Pull events in Yellowknife and Ottawa over the years. It’s a friendly competition with proceeds going to various charities.
In October 2012, the Annual World Girls Hockey Weekend took place in Iqaluit, Nunavut, introducing girls and women to the game in a positive, safe and supportive environment. In November 2012, Doug Russell, a former junior hockey player and a scout with the Western Hockey League brought his “Hockey Development Systems” program to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, to work with boys and to develop their creativity and confidence.
First Air was pleased to support both these programs with air transportation requirements. First Air is also a proud sponsor and long standing partner of the Northwest Territories Curling Association.
The annual Sport North Awards were held in May 2016 in Yellowknife. The awards recognize athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers for their performance and contribution to sport in the Northwest Territories. As The Airline of the North, First Air is a proud sponsor of this organization, which strives to develop sport at every level throughout the territory.
Whether it’s at festivals, community gatherings, fundraisers, or educational initiatives, First Air is proud to support the Arts and many cultural events in the North. Just a few examples of the programs First Air has sponsored:
- First Air President’s Charity Ball in Iqaluit supports many worthy community-based organizations;
- Long John Jamboree winter festival in Yellowknife;
- Annual Thanksgiving Day event in Kugluktuk;
- Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre and Operation Go Home;
- Festival of Giving fundraising gala in Yellowknife in support of the Stanton Regional Hospital;
- Warm Hands Network — to deliver gifts of knitted goods to many communities served by First Air; and
- Tusarnaarniq Sivumut Association (TSA) Music for the Future — fiddle workshops in Iqaluit, Pangnirtung and Pond Inlet.
Brock Friesen, First Air President and CEO, was honoured to attend the Business for the Arts Canadian Arts and Business Awards gala in Toronto in October 2015 to receive the Community Impact Award acknowledging First Air’s long-standing partnership with the National Arts Centre.
As the official airline of the Sedna Epic Expedition, First Air, in July 2016, transported Sedna’s all-female team of ocean scientists, explorers, educators and artists, its Inuit advisers and its scientific and SCUBA diving equipment to communities across Canada’s Arctic. Team Sedna will mentor the next generation of Inuit leaders, introducing them to ocean-related careers.
First Air will continue to provide tangible benefits for beneficiaries, meaningful employment opportunities and sponsor key educational, recreational, sporting and cultural events in the Arctic. In these ways, First Air continues to demonstrate social responsibility and leadership in northern transportation services.
Why has this airline been in business for nearly 70 years? In anything First Air does and supports across the Arctic, whether it’s the mining sector, the arts industry or sporting events, it is always about the people. You have made First Air successful. Thank you for putting your trust in First Air and helping it reach its 70th year milestone as it continues to be The Airline of the North.
Check out the last three issues of above&beyond Magazine online as well, for more stories about First Air’s history.