A black hulled catamaran

The vision behind Qathen Xwegus Management Corporation

In the three years since they hired Bruno Pereira, Qathen Xwegus Management Corporation (QXMC) has purchased the Klahoose Wilderness Resort, Gorge Harbour Marina, a water taxi, a piece of ocean front property for a combined campsite/RV park and entered into the seaweed farm business. They intend to add another 20 rental units, a larger store and gas station at the Gorge. QXMC is also contemplating a hydroponic vegetable farm and electrifying their land transport fleet.

“I know there is a buzzword going around ‘Environmental Social Governance’ (ESG), and I do believe and I adhere to those principles a lot, but what does it mean for us in terms of daily operation?” explained Bruno Pereira is the Manager of Qathen Xwegus. “So every new project that we start, we try to make it right from the start. Even if it means a little bit more investments here, a little bit more investments there at the end it is what we will create for the future.”

It has been a little over three years since a ‘head hunting company’ asked if he wanted to help the Klahoose First Nation reset QXMC.

“That was the term they used ‘reset’ and I love a challenge. I said, “Yeah, let’s move to BC and let’s make things happen for these people.’” 

Pereira explained that none of the achievements that followed would have been possible if it were not for the amazing people he works with.

Chief Kevin Peacey is at the top of his list.  

“He is amazing in delegating and knowing who’s supposed to be where. I sometimes came with crazy ideas,” explained Pereira. “He always listened to me and said, ‘Bruno, do it, make it happen and if it doesn’t, we’ll learn something out of it.’ That relationship that I had right from the get go with Chief Peacey as the chair of the corporation, was instrumental and critical for the success of all these projects.”  

In the video above, he had kind words for two ‘amazing employees,’Paul Muskee and Chris Tait, but added that all of QXMC’s employees have adhered to the cause. 

“The same way I get entrusted by the Chief, that’s the way I trust my employees. I tell them try things. If you fail, I won’t blame you. I’ll be happy because we learn by failure, much more than successes.”

Pereira was born and raised in one of Montreal’s Portuguese families. After university, he tried working in the banking sector, but was much happier starting his own businesses. This led to his living abroad in places like Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Paris. 

He worked with the Cree Nation in Northern Quebec for a decade prior to coming to Cortes Island. 

View from the Klahoose WIlderness Resort – courtesy QXMC

When QXMC hired him, they told Pereira he could live in Campbell River and Vancouver. 

“I said, no, no, no. I want to live in the community.” 

“They said, ‘Well, we don’t have any lodging.’” 

“I said, I’ll sleep in my RV in the community, but I need to be amongst you guys. That’s how we’re going to be successful.” 

A number of people helped him settle in. Anita Noble gave him a place to stay and eventually became his landlord. Yvonne Louie and Denise Hanson helped him understand the necessities,  requirements and objectives of the community.

Klahoose Wilderness Lodge in Homfray Channel – courtesy QXMC

One of Pereira’s first acts, as the new manager of QXMC, was to purchase what is now known as the Klahoose Wilderness Resort in Homfray Channel. He refers to this as ‘one of my greatest achievements in Klahoose.’ 

“This resort was really the stepping stone for the corporation to grow through its tourism division and also to diversify from forestry – because with forestry some years it’s good, some years they’re bad. We needed something else,” he explained.

The only negative aspect of the resort was that it was powered by a diesel generator that produced 38 tons of CO2 a year.

Pereira realized that if they could replace that with an efficient micro-hydroelectric project the resort’s carbon footprint would be reduced to almost zero. 

“Right away I said, ‘Okay, let’s build a new dam. Let’s build tanks. Let’s  bring capacity to store energy, battery packs and all.’ Obviously it was a lot of money, but I wanted this to happen right from the start. I wanted to reduce the footprint of that resort as much as we can and be responsible citizens.”

The new system generates 12 kilowatts, enough to service all the resort’s needs.

There has been a lot of criticism of the way run of the river projects impact fish populations. 

Pereira explained that this will not be a problem at the Klahoose Wilderness Resort because the dam is being installed above what is ‘basically a waterfall.’ The fish cannot get that high.  

He said there will be times when the stream freezes or is too low to generate power. So the resort has battery packs that can supply the necessary electricity for three to four days. 

The new micro-hydroelectric project should be operational in four to six months. 

QXMC has been working on a number of other projects as well. 

“I can talk about all of them, they’re all my little babies,” said Pereira. 

Klahoose Wilderness Resort – courtesy QXMC

They want to electrify the fleet of three buses being used for grizzly tours up in Toba Inlet and also have an electric shuttle connecting QXMC’s resort in Gorge Harbour to the Klahoose village in Squirrel Cove. 

“We’re really in touch with what’s happening in the industry to make sure that we have a good option for us,” said Pereira.”We don’t need 600 kilometres of range. We need maybe a few hundred a day for our buses to travel our guests around Toba Inlet and then we can plug them in at night.”

There have also been challenges providing the resorts with fresh produce, and at times this has been an issue for all of Cortes Island.  

A company called ‘Grocer’ provides hydroponic greenhouses.

“They basically build a container where you can grow salads, herbs, all kinds of different variety of produce that are completely natural and organic,” explained Pereira.

He added, “So it’s kind of controlling the supply chain, controlling what we can control. And by having this container, supplying us with different herbs and fresh produce that we can right away sell the next day after their harvest. For me, it’s amazing.”

Harvesting shellfish in Squirrel Cove – courtesy QXMC
Geoducks – courtesy QXMC

QXMC’s venture into the seaweed sector started with Paul Muskee, who kept telling Pereira they needed to get into that sector. Finally they went down to a round table that CascadiaSeaweed held in Nanaimo.

“It opened my eyes. So all the credit belongs to Paul. From that day, I said, ‘Yeah, let’s not only be an early adopter of this movement, let’s be part of the movement and at QXMC in Klahoose we had a lot of tenures around Cortes that were not being exploited, basically, that were just dormant. We have the titles, we pay rent to the province, but we didn’t do anything with them,“ said Pereira.

“So we decided to make an agreement with Cascadia. Let’s rent out some tenures to grow seaweed and on top of that we managed to make a profit-sharing agreement with Cascadia. They are trailblazers in this industry.”

One of QXMC’s other important ventures was a water taxi.  

Inside Goat 1 – courtesy QXMC

“At the beginning of my time at Klahoose I looked at all the expenses and each of our industries spent a lot of money in water taxis,” said Pereira. 

This led to the purchase of ‘Goat 1,’ which is almost exclusively running to the resort from the Spring until Fall. 

“If we really want to expand and make it a public water taxi, then we’ll probably have to buy another vessel because we’re almost booked full time with ours right now,” said Pereira.

QXMC has also made some important real estate purchases on Cortes Island. 

They are currently looking into transforming a ten acre waterfront property in Squirrel Cove into 30 RV and 40 camping sites. Pereira hopes it will be operational by the summer of 2023.

Cropped image Gorge Harbour Marina – courtesy QXMC

The recent purchase of Gorge Harbour Marina entailed a general store, gas pump, restaurant and marina.  

Pereira said QXMC wants to add more pumps to the gas station and probably build a bigger grocery store.

“We have amazing employees at the Gorge that know what people want to buy. They have that knowledge and that sensitivity in terms of purchasing that is very unique and we value it very much. We could give them a bigger facility where a storage is easier, where deliveries are made easier as well,” he said.

They would also like to build 10 – 30 small fully furnished (or not) housing units in the next two years. 

“We’ve been talking a lot about it. There’s different models  of rentals, but we want to find the right one  A one and a half, two and a half, two bedrooms; fully furnished or not, it all depends.  If  for example, we build 20 and our staff takes 10, then we’re happy to run the other 10 to long-term tenants. So, it’s not set in stone yet, but we’re trying to really do things well,” he explained. 

Where is QXMC getting the money to fund these projects? 

“Obviously forestry is a big supporter of the other division’s projects. We generate a little bit of money with forestry,” said Pereira.

He added, “There are funds out there to help First Nations and corporations owned by First Nations. If a project is worth doing, you better be sure that it’s going to happen. The jobs that it creates and the legacy that it leaves behind also inspires us to do more.”

Links of interest:

Top photo credit: The Goat 1 – courtesy QXMC

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