Teara Fraser, CEO of Iskwew Air. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Teara Fraser, CEO of Iskwew Air. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

First Canadian airline to be founded by an Indigenous woman takes off

Iskwew Air CEO Teara Fraser also announces youth program on International Women’s Day

Canada’s first airline to be founded and owned by an Indigenous woman is all clear for takeoff.

Iskwew Air, located out of Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal, officially launched on Friday, in honour of International Women’s Day.

CEO Teara Fraser and her eight-seat Piper Navajo will provide charter flights between the Lower Mainland and smaller communities that don’t have access to frequent airline service.

Since the beginning, Fraser’s goal has been to use her airline to bolster Indigenous tourism and empower women in aviation – starting with her company’s name, Iskwew (pronounced iss-KWAY-oh), which is the Cree word for woman.

“Indigenous women have been matriarchs, leaders, knowledge keepers, strategists, healers, and sophisticated entrepreneurs since time immemorial,” said Fraser, who is Metis, in a news release.

“By including and amplifying these important and powerful voices, we can see a whole new future full of innovation, strength and economic prosperity.”

WATCH: 1st Indigenous woman to start Canadian airline looks to B.C.’s remote regions

During Friday’s launch, Fraser also announced an initiative to inspire Indigenous youth to explore a career in aviation.

Through events around the province, the Give Them Wings program will give youth and their families the opportunity to learn more about aviation and what it takes to be a pilot.

BC Aviation Council chair Heather Bell said encouraging and recruiting young people is a key piece to reversing “a looming human resource shortage” in the industry.

“There is potential for this shortage to have significant impacts on Indigenous communities, should commercial providers find themselves unable to service remote and northern routes,” she said. “The need is real, the time is now. It is vital that programs like Give Them Wings exist.”