When she was growing up in Eel Ground First Nation on the shores of the Miramichi River in northern New Brunswick, a career in housing was the last thing on Helen Ward-Wakelin’s mind.

For one thing, there simply weren’t very many certified trades or housing professionals living and working in her community. And those few she did know were, without exception, all men.

But after a chance encounter led to a summer job with the North Shore Micmac District Council (NSMDC) in 1998, Helen found herself not only working in the housing field, but also starting down a path that would eventually lead to her becoming the first – and so far only – female Native Inspection Services Initiative (NISI) inspector in Atlantic Canada.

“I had just graduated with a Business Degree from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, and I heard about an internship that was available at the NSMDC,” Helen says.

“It was only supposed to be a 20-week contract helping out their Director of Housing. But I really took to the work, and after the 20 weeks were over, they decided they didn’t want to let me go. A decade and a half later, I’m still here, and now I’m the Housing Director!”

NISI inspectors are contracted to carry out inspections of Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) projects and other housing projects within their communities. CMHC founded the NISI program to increase the capacity of First Nations to ensure their home ...

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