Chelsey Quirk promotes economic reconciliation, equity, diversity, and inclusion at the Edmonton International Airport
Job Title: Manager of Indigenous and External Relations, Edmonton International Airport
For Chelsey Quirk, the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is more than a transportation hub — it’s also a community builder, an economic driver, and even a tool for reconciliation.
Born in Winnipeg and raised in Kenora, Ont., Quirk came to Edmonton in 2015 to take a job with the airport as a senior communications advisor. But the job changed unexpectedly after an Indigenous community organization asked if the airport would collaborate on an event for National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2016.
Quirk, who is Métis, was all in: “We brought some partners together and created this beautiful, cultural showcase.” But it made her realize that the airport, which welcomes millions of diverse passengers each year, could do more to support equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).
The airport leadership agreed the airport needed greater representation of Indigenous culture and more attention to EDI within the airport workforce, too. In 2019, Quirk became the airport’s first Manager of Indigenous and External Relations, a role that includes making “an airport for everyone” and a safe place for Indigenous people and other marginalized groups — both employees and travelers.
She says the “pride and joy” of her career has been leading the creation of an Indigenous interpretative and retail centre (the first phase opened last fall). The initiative is a partnership with Indigenous Box, a local company that promotes Indigenous makers with a monthly subscription and corporate giving boxes; it’s one of 30 different start-ups operating at the Airport City Sustainability Campus, which incubates start-up companies as part of its living lab.
Supporting Indigenous business owners is as much about showcasing culture as working towards economic reconciliation — an important aspect of Truth and Reconciliation. She notes that Indigenous makers receive all of the centre’s proceeds, with nothing going to the airport. “It [is] about social sustainability, not financial stability, because social sustainability is going to pay off in dividends.”