From Aquatic Biologist to Division Manager: Kelly Wells’ journey at CanNorth 

Joining Canada North Environmental Services (CanNorth) as an Aquatic Biologist was the dream job for Kelly Wells post-university, offering her summers in the field in Northern Saskatchewan.  

 Now, fast forward 22 years, Kelly stands as CanNorth’s Environment Division Manager, where she finds joy mentoring budding biologists. Moreover, she is pivotal in CanNorth’s operations and management teams. 

Even as a child, Wells had a clear vision: a career in the environmental field. Her summers were often spent at the family cottage, where she developed a love for fish biology and the tranquil waters. For Wells, the allure of a new adventure triumphs a desk job any day. 

During her early years, guidance came from a senior fisheries biologist, a colleague of her father. “I talked to her about consulting and the kind of work she did. She really inspired me to delve into consulting. I love the pace, the diversity, the blend of field and office work, and the applied science aspect,” she recalls. 

CanNorth emerged as the perfect fit for Wells. Beginning as a modest venture, the company grew conservatively. With only four employees when Wells joined in 2001, the scope of work was broad. “I learned quickly. From the start, I dove into cost estimates, project management, and client relations. But I also found myself mending fish nets and conducting fish surveys,” she recounts. It’s this diverse environment that sustained Wells’ interest in consulting over the years. 

Now, CanNorth boasts a family of 90 employees, with many women occupying senior positions, and their operations and management teams are predominantly women. I’m surrounded by competent, amazing women,” she beams. While Wells acknowledges the persisting challenges for women in the workplace, she’s found an egalitarian atmosphere at CanNorth. 

Being part of the Kitsaki group of companies significantly contributes to CanNorth’s triumphs, according to Wells, and garners various advantages. The entity’s Indigenous ownership attracts individuals keen on being part of such a unique establishment.  

“Kitsaki and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band are hugely supportive, with Chief Tammy Cook-Searson serving as a global role model for women,” she said. 

For Wells, the job has been a source of fantastic “moments”, especially her time spent in the north, around Lake Athabasca and Uranium City area. “I learned immensely from the locals, both on personal and professional fronts… I fell in love with Northern Saskatchewan, the lake, and the remoteness,” she reminisces. 

Looking back, what captivated her as a child hinted at her destined path. She opted for a boutique company like CanNorth with robust leadership, sustainable hiring practices, room for growth, and a varied workload. And she has never looked back since. 

Kitsaki News

Cover of Kitsaki News December 2023 issue. The headline 'The Future is Bright — Celebrating the Women Driving Growth & Change at Kitsaki' is prominently displayed at the top. Below, a list of women's names is featured, each associated with a different organization or department within Kitsaki. The background image is a serene winter scene with a road stretching towards the horizon under a bright, clear sky, suggesting optimism and forward momentum. The Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership logo is at the bottom right.

Welcome to the December 2023 issue of Kitsaki News. In this edition, we shine a spotlight on the inspiring women leading the way in growth and change across our diverse group of companies. Join us in celebrating their achievements and exploring their stories.

NRSI acquired by CanNorth, creating national leading environmental services provider

(SASKATOON/WATERLOO) Canada North Environmental Services (CanNorth) is excited to announce it has completed its acquisition of Natural Resource Solutions Inc. (NRSI), combining two of the industry’s top
environmental firms in Canada.

By joining forces with NRSI, the acquisition brings together two highly respected firms with complementary capabilities in the environmental consulting industry. This strategic integration significantly expands CanNorth’s team of experts with the addition of NRSI’s talented aquatic, wetland and terrestrial biologists, GIS specialists, and project managers. More importantly, it allows NRSI and CanNorth to extend their geographical reach and industry knowledge in new and exciting directions.

“The acquisition between CanNorth and NRSI allows us to focus on leveraging the synergies between our two organizations to provide enhanced and expanded services to our clients,” said Peter Vanriel, General Manager of CanNorth. “By combining NRSI’s strengths in certain regions and sectors with CanNorth’s existing expertise, we will offer expanded capabilities and value. This union is about multiplying joint talents between two organizations to better serve client needs nationwide.”

“The acquisition of NRSI under CanNorth demonstrates our commitment to expanding Kitsaki’s portfolio and creating new opportunities for growth,” said Kitsaki’s CEO Ron Hyggen. “It is a significant step forward as we believe this move will continue to create economic opportunities an
benefits for the many communities we serve.”

“By coming together with CanNorth, we can achieve more for our clients and employees,” said Elaine Gosnell, Senior Terrestrial and Wetland Biologist with NRSI and owner. “We are very pleased that this new ownership will provide long-term sustainability to NRSI, its people, clients, and relationships, and we are thrilled to become an Indigenous-owned company.

“I am honoured to have assisted bringing these two exceptional environmental consulting companies together,” said David Stephenson, Senior Biologist with NRSI and owner. “Both have common goals, supporting, inspiring, and challenging our teams, providing service to our clients and the environment. Combining the companies under Indigenous ownership maintains and enhances our resilience, longevity, and expertise, as well as our services, sectors, and geographies.

NRSI will continue to operate from its head office in Waterloo with regional employees across Canada, and CanNorth will remain headquartered in Saskatoon.

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Jennifer Thoma
Director of Marketing and Communication
Kitsaki Management

Kitsaki Vegetation Services – ABEX Award Finalist

Black background with KVS in writing being named as a finalist

Kitsaki Vegetation Services (KVS) has been recognized for its commitment to diversity by being selected as a finalist for a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce ABEX award

Considered one of Saskatchewan’s leading Vegetation Management companies, KVS supplies aerial tree trimming, right-of-way, brush clearing, dangerous tree removal, hand slashing, herbicide application, and consenting services to the utility industry. 

The ABEX awards, now in their 40th year, are the highest award for Saskatchewan business and celebrate the success of businesses and business leaders across the province. The finalists are chosen based on their impact on the industry and commitment to innovation, diversity, sustainability, and community involvement.

The winners will be announced at the ABEX Awards gala on September 16, 2023, at Prairieland Park (Hall A) in Saskatoon.

Click here to read the full news release with each of the finalists. 

First Nations insurance team expands services

LaRoche McDonald’s talent base has grown to meet the company’s commitment to supporting Indigenous business and enhance its service provision in the area of First Nations housing and commercial insurance.

“First Nations Specialists Cheryl Arcand, Mitchell Clouthier, and Joe Dasiuk are quoting and making presentations at First Nations across the province,” said Keith Klassen, Manager and General Insurance Broker. “It has been a very busy year so far, especially with so many policies renewing in April 2023. We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to become the insurance provider of choice for First Nations clients in Saskatchewan.”

Arcand and Cloutier joined LaRoche McDonald in 2022 and were joined by Dasiuk in January this year. Experts in the field, they are focused on expanding LaRoche McDonald’s First Nations insurance portfolio.

“It has been a very busy year so far and we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to become the insurance provider of choice for First Nations clients in Saskatchewan,” said Klassen.

At the main office in Saskatoon, MaryAnn Reifferscheid and Jazmine McCracken round out the specialized team with dedicated in-house support.

“Jazmine was hired at LaRoche McDonald in mid-2022 to assist with commercial insurance and First Nations insurance business. In her former job, she supervised personal lines insurance brokers and helped with their training. She was also the main person responsible for finding solutions for hard-to-place business. We are very pleased to have Jazmine on our team.”

“We recruited MaryAnn in early 2023 to assist us in looking after commercial and First Nations business. She was already working at LaRoche, but in personal insurance,” said Klassen. 

“MaryAnn and I worked together on First Nations business at another brokerage a number of years before I joined LaRoche, so I knew she would be a great fit. She has a strong background in both Personal and Commercial Insurance, and she has exceptional customer service skills.”

Established in 1933, LaRoche McDonald Agencies is a general insurance and property management firm based in Saskatoon that provides automobile, residential, and commercial insurance, and property management services. The company joined the Kitsaki Group in July 2022.

Think you’d be a great fit for a career with LaRoche McDonald? Please visit to learn more.

Growing with our partners

Three men standing together under a Kitsaki Management logo. Two men work at SaskPower and the other is the CEO of Kitsaki

SaskPower and Kitsaki celebrate more than two decades of partnership

Kitsaki’s relationship with SaskPower began with a single project in 2011, when the province’s electric utility connected with former CEO Russell Roberts about the need to clear a 135-km right-of-way in northern Saskatchewan.

“Nature is part of our province’s great beauty, especially when it comes to the north,” said Kitsaki CEO Ron Hyggen. “But it also causes power outages and poses a serious safety risk.”

Over the next 18 months, Kitsaki teams cleared a stretch of land for a power line near Highway 102 between Brabant Lake and Key Lake, and Kitsaki Vegetation was born. This job planted the roots for a partnership that continues to grow more than two decades later.

“Suppliers like Kitsaki play a key role in the growth and evolution of our company,” said Rupen Pandya, President and CEO of SaskPower. “And I’m not just talking about quality service. Our partnership means innovating as we pursue common goals, building new relationships and growing capacity in all the communities we work with. I’m looking forward to continuing to work together to advance opportunities for growth in our province.”

Saskatchewan is one of the world’s most diverse power producers, home to a range of energy resources including natural gas, crude oil, coal, uranium and biofuels, as well as geothermal, wind and hydro. SaskPower operates seven natural gas, three coal-fired, and seven hydroelectric stations, and two wind facilities. The utility also purchases power from independent power producers. Combined, Saskatchewan’s total power generating capacity is over 5,400 MW of electricity serving more than 545,000 customers.

Serving a population of 1.2 million over 651,000 square kilometres, SaskPower maintains over 157,000 kilometres of distribution and transmission lines, the second-largest network of all Canadian utilities. By comparison, British Columbia, home to 5.07 million people living across 944,735 square kilometres, has an 80,000-kilometre network.

To keep the path clear, Kitsaki Vegetation uses internationally-recognized Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) practices, which include machine mulching with large equipment, sustainable and monitored herbicide application, hand slashing, and preventative methods like encouraging short grasses and shrubs that slow the growth of taller trees.

Over the years, Kitsaki’s relationship with SaskPower has expanded to include partnerships with other entities in the Kitsaki Group, including Athabasca Catering, CanNorth, and March Consulting. Teams on both sides now work together to plan and execute a range of projects across the province. This level of collaboration is necessary to complete major projects in the queue, and to aid SaskPower in meeting ambitious emission targets.

As both Hyggen and Pandya get closer to their one-year mark in the CEO seat of both Kitsaki and SaskPower, setting an example for sustainable collaboration within the industry remains a shared goal. The partnership’s achievements highlight the potential for corporations to unite in addressing pressing environmental challenges and creating economic opportunities for Indigenous communities in the province.

As businesses around the world look for ways to mitigate environmental changes, the Kitsaki-SaskPower partnership serves as a model, illustrating the impact that focused cooperation and innovative approaches can have on creating a sustainable path long into the future.

“The partnership’s achievements highlight the potential for corporations to unite in addressing pressing environmental challenges and creating economic opportunities for Indigenous communities in the province.”

Kitsaki and Lac La Ronge Indian Band Celebrate 2023 Treaty Days Across Six Communities

Chief Tammy Searson Cook stands proudly at a Kitsaki booth alongside the beaming winners of the Kayak giveaway, all holding their colorful new kayaks and ready for their next water adventure.

Over the course of six busy days, the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) and Kitsaki Management celebrated 2023 Treaty Days across six communities. The first event kicked off on May 1, 2023, in Hall Lake with Kitsaki’s first kayak giveaway and two $250 gift cards. The following days featured fish fries, festivities and five more kayak giveaways giveaways in Sucker River, Grandmother’s Bay, Stanley Mission, La Ronge, and culminated in Little Red.

Treaty Days symbolize a significant time of celebration, unity, and festivity for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, honoring the legacy of Chief James Roberts. Chief Roberts, representing the band, formally signed an adhesion to Treaty 6 in 1889. 

Treaty Days celebration highlights the strong partnership between the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and Kitsaki Management, while fostering pride, unity, and continued growth. By investing in community development and creating new opportunities for LLRIB members, Kitsaki demonstrates its commitment to preserving and empowering each community.

Kitsaki Management announces majority stake acquisition in AGI Envirotank

AGI employees

Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership (KMLP), Lac La Ronge Indian Band’s economic development arm, announced today that it has acquired 51 per cent interest in AGI Envirotank (AGI), a leading manufacturer of steel storage tanks used in a variety of industries.

“We are excited to welcome AGI employees to the Kitsaki family, all of whom were instrumental in growing the company to what it is today,” said Kitsaki CEO, Ron Hyggen. “AGI has a solid reputation and when they approached us regarding an opportunity to work together, we were immediately interested. The first thing we look for in any potential investment is alignment of values with the current ownership team and this box was checked early in our process. Tank Manufacturing is an industry we have been looking at for some time as it complements the services we currently provide to clients in the same industries across the country. We believe this acquisition is a perfect strategic fit for us and look forward to working with the AGI team.

AGI is a privately-owned manufacturing company that produces and distributes environmentally safe steel storage tanks and distribution equipment for the oil, gas and mining markets in Canada, which aligns with Kitsaki’s group of companies. Under the terms of the acquisition, AGI will retain 49 per cent of the company and continue to oversee operations, while Kitsaki will provide specialized expertise, strategic guidance and governance support.

“The acquisition of AGI Envirotank demonstrates our commitment to expanding Kitsaki’s portfolio and creating new opportunities for growth. It is a significant step forward as we firmly believe this move will create economic opportunities and benefits for the many communities we serve,” said Kitsaki President and Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with Kitsaki and becoming part of a larger organization,” said Jeff Burton, general manager of AGI Envirotank. “I have known Ron Hyggen for many years, and we both work with the same industry clients, so our shared commitment to quality and customer service makes this a natural partnership.”

LaRoche McDonald Acquisition

Effective July 1st, 2022, Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership (“Kitsaki”) has acquired 100% of the shares of LaRoche McDonald Agencies Limited (“LaRoche”), a general insurance and property management firm based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“At Kitsaki, we are focused on long-term, sustainable businesses,” says Ron Hyggen, Kitsaki CEO. “The pandemic further highlighted the importance of a diverse investment portfolio. While many industries struggled, we saw an opportunity to further expand into the insurance market. LaRoche has a century of experience, a dedicated team, and a strong track record of excellence.”

Based in Saskatoon, LaRoche first began operations in 1933. The firm provides residential, commercial, and auto insurance to a wide range of clientele. LaRoche also provides property management services for condo corporations, apartment buildings, and commercial properties across the city. At the time of acquisition, the company was owned by Jason Dunn and Keith Klassen. Both owners will stay on as managers to ensure “business as usual”, to facilitate growth, and to complete the transition of operations to Kitsaki. Jason and Keith had this to say: “We are excited to be part of the
Kitsaki family. Insurance and property management are relationship businesses that thrive by building client trust through dedicated and expert service. These ideals coincide with core Kitsaki operating principles, and that is what made joining the group so attractive to us.”

“Kitsaki has participated in this sector to some extent with First Nations Insurance Services since the late 1980s,” says Hyggen. “LaRoche provides a great opportunity to provide related services to a new book of clients and has potential for growth not just in Western Canada, but nationally. We look forward to working with Jason, Keith, and the rest of the LaRoche team.”

Tree Trimming Training for LLRIB Members

Considered one of Saskatchewan’s leading Vegetation Management companies, KVSLP supplies aerial tree trimming, right-of-way, brush clearing, danger tree removal, hand slashing, herbicide application, and consenting services to the utility industry. But our growth has been hampered by a shortage of Utility Tree Trimmers (UTT’s) in Saskatchewan. So Kitsaki Vegetation is training band members to fulfil that need.

Three Lac La Ronge Indian Band members with Kitsaki Vegetation have completed the academic portion of the UTT program at Olds College in Alberta.

Dexter Halkett, Jeff Ratt and Alex Mckenzie spent two weeks at the college earlier this spring and are now out putting in the hours trimming trees around power lines across the province.

Alex Mckenzie, who has been with Kitsaki for about three years now, said the first week was spent learning about working safely around power lines, trimming trees while in a bucket, climbing the trees, and about all the equipment needed to do the job. They also were taught how to recognize the different trees and pruning methods.

“Like how to cut a tree so it won’t die,” Mckenzie said. The second week was all about climbing trees. “We learned how to climb the tree, and how to rescue a guy if they get stuck,” he said.

To even get in to the course you have to put in 1,200 hours on the job. And now they need to complete 1,200 more hours on the job to become fully certified.

“This utility tree trimmer designation is like a journeyman’s ticket,” said Kitsaki Vegetation Service’s general manager Terry Helary. “It is a very specialized trade. It is one of the most dangerous trades in the world and safety is No. 1.”
It’s about a two-year process to become certified.

Dexter Halkett, who is from La Ronge, said they now know how to trim the trees properly while staying safe.

“(For example) you notch and then back cut, but then there are a couple of extra cuts you have to make up there to make sure the tree doesn’t peel and rip you down off the tree with the top you are taking off.”

For the past 10 years Halkett was cutting and clearing around power lines, but he wasn’t climbing up the poles. “It took me a while to get used to that,” he said. “I was kind of shaky getting used to heights.”
“I never wanted to climb trees,” he laughed. “But I like the climbing now.” Mckenzie said it also took him a little while to get used to climbing.

“The first time is pretty scary. You get a lot of shaking in your bones.”
So far he hasn’t had to climb too many trees because most of the time they are doing the trimming from a bucket. One of the things he likes about the job is the people. “I like working with the guys,” said Mckenzie, who is from Stanley Mission. “They are all good guys to work with.”

Jeff Ratt, who is from Sucker River, had a leg up on the others because he already had experience climbing power poles with Kitsaki. And he had taken a climbing course at Northlands College before taking this course.

“Switching over to this side was kind of the same deal,” Ratt said. “We are still working around the power lines.” They usually work in two- or three-man crews.

Ratt said on his three-man crew there is a couple on the ground hauling the brush to the chipper.
“Then we have the bucket guy who is trimming.” Ratt said he enjoys the work and the travel that takes him all over the province. “We are pretty much in a new community every week.”

Besides doing regular maintenance they are also called out to emergencies. “Especially storm damage and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

All three are comfortable working in remote locations. In fact, Mckenzie grew up on a trap line “My first memory was probably in a dog sled with my dad.” “It is really peaceful out there,” Mckenzie said, adding he was spending his week off in July back on the trap line. Ratt said they take safety very seriously. “If you are not sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask.”

Helary said that safety is a priority and one of the company’s core values. “Our guys are always working beside a power line and they always have to be aware of their surroundings and any other employees that are working with them as well.”

One other band member took the course last year and Helary said the goal is to put two members through the course each year.

“We are all about providing long-term employment opportunities for our Lac La Ronge band members.”