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Sharing Space to Expand Our Community in Fort St. John

DRFN after a General Council Meeting in January

Urban Systems has been building a relationship with Doig River First Nation (DRFN) for longer than most consultants can remember, working with the Nation for decades on all kinds of projects. “Our relationship with this client has grown so much over the years,” explains Jake Hughson, a Strategic Planner. “From working on traditional infrastructure projects with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), to new projects such as land use planning, community planning, economic development and projects associated with culture and heritage – our relationship has really grown and matured.”

For the Fort St. John office, this has come to mean sharing the office space, in particular, the board room, when the Nation has had meetings with local businesses and organizations. DRFN is more than just a client, they are part of the Urban Systems community. So when the Nation needed an unexpected helping hand, our consultants were ready to step up.

Over the Christmas break, a pipe burst in the Nation’s Administrative Office, damaging not only the physical property but also doing considerable damage to much of their equipment. Needing a place to continue working, Shona Nelson, DRFN’s Band Manager, contacted Hughson, who was quick to offer some space in the newly renovated Fort St. John office that would act as a temporary office until DRFN can repair the damage to the admin office and their equipment. “We have ended up working out as their triage office space while they’re under repairs,” Hughson clarifies.

DRFN’s team in the Fort St. John office – Zack and Doug

Kenna Williams, a Project Coordinator in Fort St. John, notes that office sharing is nothing new for the northern BC team. “During our renovations, we held a lot of our meetings in the City of Fort St. John boardroom, so this is kind of like paying it forward.” Currently, the office not only hosts meetings for the Nation, but there are also members of their accounting and IT teams regularly working in spare desks, and the office is now the temporary address for all their deliveries. Williams muses that while their acts of kindness are something the Fort St. John office is happy to do, members of DRFN have commented on how accommodating they are all being. As Hughson notes, “We’re just happy to do it!”

Hughson, Williams and the rest of the local team have been doing whatever they can to make their guests feel at home. This has included finding solutions to help them operate as much like they are used to as possible during the transition. Geri Vallee, an IT Technician in the Surrey office, was happy to take a trip north to ensure DRFN’s confidential information is protected. Day-to-day business operations aside, the Fort St. John office has also been sure to invite the members from DRFN to their office celebrations, including staff breakfasts, lunches and the odd social hour. “While we are currently helping out DRFN, we are always open to collaborating and offering our space to other local groups as well. We think of our space as just an extension of the communities where we live and work.”

The repairs of the DRFN Administrative Office are estimated to take about two to three months, and in the meantime, Fort St. John will continue to act as a temporary work and meeting space for the Nation. Although about a 45-minute drive between the office and DRFN, the team is more than happy to help the Nation navigate the challenges and make the time as easy as possible. “We like to think of ourselves as an extension of their team,” states Hughson. “We’re a part of the Doig River team, and just the same, they’re a part of ours.”

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