Inspiring Indigenous Youth through the shipbuilding industry: The #WeSeeYou Program visits Seaspan

May 9, 2024

“I’ve never seen the ocean before. I’ve never seen big, tall towers before. You can’t really see that in Edmonton either, so this visit to Seaspan represented many firsts.”  

That was the experience of Aaron Jeremick’ca when he visited Seaspan Shipyards recently as part of the #WeSeeYou tour. The tour was hosted by the Ballantyne Project, founded by Dwight Ballantyne with the mission of supporting young Indigenous Peoples from remote communities in Canada — to amplify their voices and create new opportunities and experiences.   

George Michell, Seaspan’s Indigenous Liaison and Recruitment Coordinator, was inspired by Dwight’s story after meeting him at a recent awards ceremony. George connected with Dwight after hearing his story and suggested Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards as a stop for the next #WeSeeYou tour. 

“I come from a small community. I know the big impact these trips can have on youth. I am happy that I was able to connect these youth to the great opportunities that are available to them at Seaspan,” explained George. 

The #WeSeeYou group toured Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards and explored our Holoship facility, a virtual reality platform that allows users to experience a fully detailed, three-dimensional ship. Their visit to Seaspan was designed to inspire Indigenous youth living in remote areas of Canada and encourage them to learn more about the opportunities in the marine industry.  

This #WeSeeYou cohort consisted of a group of 16 Indigenous youth selected from Shoal Lake Cree Nation (Saskatchewan), Behchokǫ̀ (Northwest Territories), Gitsegukla First Nation (Gitksan Territory, BC), and Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation (BC). 

Dwight Ballantyne was inspired from his own experience – he wanted to create support for Indigenous Youth from remote Canadian communities and help them to break through barriers, build bridges, amplify their voices, and expose them to different experiences outside of their communities.

“I hope that they take away all the things they’ve seen here today at Seaspan. They could learn a lot of things here from the programs and workplaces that we have shown them this week and my hope is that they learn a lot and take it back home with them. That’s the entire goal of the #WeSeeYou trip,” says Dwight.  

During the tour, we had an opportunity to get to know a few of the participants, as they walked through the shipyard and explored the Joint Support Ship that Seaspan is currently building for the Royal Canadian Navy.  

Aaron Jeremick’ca was born and raised in Yellowknife and is part of the Behchokǫ̀ Nation. After touring Seaspan, he became inspired to learn more about the apprentice programs Seaspan offers students. Aaron plans to go back to school to enroll in a welding program with new dreams of becoming a pyrotechnician in the future.  

“The huge Joint Support Ship was my favourite part of the tour. I mean it was just exciting seeing such a big ship. Living in the Northwest Territories you don’t see any ships. I mean there’s house ships on the Great Slave Lake. But that’s literally all you can see,” said Aaron (left). 

Reid Head is from Saskatchewan and is a member of the Shoal Lake Cree Nation. During his time at Seaspan, Reid could imagine a better future for himself through education. After graduating from high school this year, he plans on pursuing a degree in education to eventually become a volleyball coach. 

“Here at the Shipyards, I’ve been hearing a lot about a lot of people’s different experiences and how they went through life and even after school, so that actually got me pumped and thinking about life and how my path could be. Even though my situation’s pretty bad back at home, I could think of a few things that I could be looking forward to in the future and not need to stress about it,” said Reid. 

This was the first time the #WeSeeYou tour visited Seaspan Shipyards and the youth were exposed to a new industry, people, ideas, and opportunities. Some of the youth come from cities and communities with populations of 7000 people.  

“That’s what I tell all the youth, home is always going to be there. You have the chance, you have the opportunity, go for education, go experience life, and bring that knowledge back and share it with the upcoming youth,” said Rhonda Apples, Youth and Elder Support Worker with the Department of Healing and Wellness at the Tlicho Government.  

To find out more about the #WeSeeYou program, please visit: