Starbucks Canada and We Wai Kai Nation break ground on new Starbucks store

First Nation members of the We Wai Kai Nation gathered on Monday for a ceremonial ground breaking to honour the land that will become the site of a new Starbucks store. This location will be operated by the We Wai Kai Nation, making this a first-of-its-kind collaboration for Starbucks in Canada.

Led by We Wai Kai Nation Chief & Council and Economic Development, a traditional blessing and ground breaking ceremony was held to commemorate the beginning of this significant collaboration and new store.  The ceremony reflected the nation’s traditions with an Eagle Down Blessing ceremony, a Ladies’ Dance, words of wisdom from Chief Chickite and Hereditary Chiefs and a Ground Breaking Ceremony with both representatives from We Wai Kai Nation and Starbucks Canada to mark the beginning of construction.

K’amk’amxwaliła, traditional Eagle Down Blessing Ceremony. Photo credit Eric Kular.

“We Wai Kai Nation is a proud leader in providing progressive economic, cultural and social services for its members, residents and businesses,” said Ronnie Chickite, Chief Councillor, We Wai Kai Nation. “Economic development is a key pillar of our strategic plan and an important component as we move towards treaty. It is through partnerships, like this one with Starbuck Canada, that will support our goal of self-reliance.” 

As a licensed Starbucks store, it will be wholly operated by the We Wai Kai Nation, while providing the same Starbucks Experience customers enjoy at Starbucks stores across Canada. The We Wai Kai Nation will focus on hiring locally and the store’s design will reflect the origins and pride of We Wai Kai Nation with materials and local art with space for the community to connect over coffee. It is expected to open in the fall of this year.

“It is an honour and privilege to be welcomed into the We Wai Kai Nation and to help provide a space for the community to connect over coffee. We look forward to listening and learning from the people of We Wai Kai to help serve the unique needs and priorities of their community,” said Shannon Leisz, Vice President, Store Development, Starbucks Canada.  “Together with We Wai Kai Nation, our shared vision has now become a shared reality. This incredible moment marks the beginning of what is possible for Starbucks and First Nation communities in Canada as we continue to work side by side.”

Tłalkwała (Ladies’ Dance), a traditional dance performed by members of the We Wai Kai Nation. Photo credit Eric Kular.

We Wai Kai Nation are members of the Kwakwakaʼwakw Indigenous peoples living on Quadra Island at the mouth of the Campbell River near Vancouver Island’s eastern coast. Spanning nearly 1,700 acres of forests and coastlines, its communities have long been known for their local artistry, hospitality and incredible natural beauty. For the nation’s 1,200 members, the new Starbucks store represents just one piece of its broader effort towards self-sustaining economic development. Guided by community values that include respect, accountability and environmental stewardship, its focus has been on both entrepreneurship and meaningful employment. To achieve this, We Wai Kai has been investing in local businesses, building talent, and fostering relationships with other organizations that share those values.

As part of Starbucks ongoing reconciliation journey and continued effort to advance equity, diversity and inclusion,  is this moment serves as an important milestone in the company’s commitment to building respectful, meaningful relationships with First Nation communities.

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