Protecting and Connecting with the Land: Candice Wilson’s Environmental Management Path
“As Indigenous people, we have that connection to that land where we treat it with respect. That's what pushed me to go towards a biology degree and then after that, environmental science,” Candice Wilson explains. She lives in Kitimat Village and works as the environment manager for Haisla Nation Council.
Informing her work is a lot of education. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from UNBC, along with a Master of Science degree in environmental practice, a graduate certificate in science and policy of climate change and a graduate certificate in Indigenous economic development all from Royal Roads University.
She originally started her education in biology and found post-secondary science difficult, particularly genetics, even after really enjoying biology and physics in high school. Wilson took a break and found a similar program that didn’t need genetics: environmental science. “I'm actually thankful that my educational path went that route because I love what I do today, working for my own people, representing all of Haisla, and ensuring that our culture and traditions are protected when it comes to industry in our traditional territory,” she says.
When she talks about industry, she’s referring to companies with commercial interests in her territory. These resource-based businesses operate in the area and the choices they make in how they do their work can have an impact on the environment of the Haisla people. As someone working in environmental management, it’s Wilson’s job to do what she can to work together with the employees of these companies to take care of the land for future generations.
To build community capacity, she offers to support and mentor students from her territory who are interested in the work she does. In pursuing her education, she had to go away for school to Prince George, more than six hours away by car. At school, she found herself walking in two worlds: the world of Western science and her own culture and traditions. She brings the two together in her work today to make sure her culture is able to thrive now that she’s back in her home territory.
Wilson was inspired to do the work she does after attending a rediscovery camp in her early teens in a location that was a two to three-hour boat ride away. On the land in this remote, spiritual place, she realized she wanted to work outdoors and in the environmental science arena. With hard work and determination, she made it happen.
As far as her daily routine, she works from 8 to 4 and starts her day by checking her email. In her territory the LNG Canada project, which includes the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, and the Cedar LNG facility are being built there, so she attends environmental assessment working group meetings for those projects. There’s also an aluminum project operating in the territory. Wilson meets regularly with industry to ensure the safety of her Nation.
She’s developed strong relationships with industry over the eight years she’s been doing this work, which allows her to address issues in a constructive way, either by Zoom or in person. The other people who she’s built relationships with are the three employees she supervises, including an environmental liaison who works with the oil and gas commission, an environmental steward and a recycling coordinator.
After work, to take care of herself, she spends time with her immediate and extended family and also with her friends. Wilson used to be a runner and is looking to get back to that or to get into yoga to start moving her body again. She has five dogs and a child at home and she’s thankful for the flexibility of the work she does that lets her bring her daughter home from the bus stop at the end of the school day. Summertime finds her camping in her camper and reconnecting with Nature.
When it comes to the future, she’s full of hope. “I just want to make sure my daughter's going to be taken care of. I want to empower her to really do whatever she dreams. I want to live in a society where I don't have to prepare her for the tough things that us as Indigenous people go through. I feel it coming to that point where we don't have to worry about it so much. My hope is that she can live in a world free of discrimination. She can do whatever her heart desires, if she wants to go to school like I did, great, or if she wants to go for arts or drama. That's my biggest goal is that the future is bright for her,” she dreams aloud.
As an Indigenous woman, Candice Wilson has that connection to that land, where she treats it with respect. That perspective pushed her towards the biology degree and eventually environmental science. And now living in Kitimat Village, she works as the environment manager for Haisla Nation Council. She’s protecting her territory and the people who live there. After walking in two worlds in her education, she’s protecting the world where she hopes her daughter will thrive.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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