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It was a surreal moment for Iskwew Air founder and CEO, Teara Fraser, when she got the call this past May about being included in DC Comics’ upcoming graphic novel, titled Wonderful Women of History.
The call came just over a year after Fraser, who is also a commercial pilot, launched Vancouver, B.C.-based Iskwew Air in March 2019, and she became the first Indigenous woman in Canada to start her own airline.
The graphic novel features the stories of 18 women who not only emulate the character traits of Wonder Woman, but who are recognized as real-life heroines for changing the world in some way.
In early September, it was announced that Fraser would be one of the 18 women featured in the novel, which is scheduled to be released on Dec. 1. Fraser will be spotlighted along with tennis star, Serena Williams; American politician, Elizabeth Warren; American singer, Beyonce; American stand-up comic, Tig Notaro; and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S., to name a few.
“There I was… my name on this list of incredible, changemaking women,” said Fraser. “It feels surreal. It feels surprising. It feels humbling. And I feel deeply honoured.”
In fact, Fraser is the only Canadian woman included on the list.
She hopes that her segment, titled “Teara Fraser: Helping Others Soar,” will help to “disrupt the narrative of our aviation industry, and inspire better diversity, inclusion and belonging.
“I want all those identifying as women to see examples of leaders who are dismantling oppressive systems — everyday superheroes who are working hard to co-create a better world, one that serves all peoples,” she continued. “I want all peoples to see what is possible when wonder women step into their strength unapologetically. I hope people read these stories and are inspired to follow their dreams and do good in the world. Because everyone has superpowers, their own unique superpowers.”
Fraser was interviewed back in June, along with four other women in her circle, for her segment in the novel, which was written by Traci Sorell. Each of the 18 stories in the upcoming graphic novel were completed by different writers, and all were edited by New York Times best-selling author, Laurie Halse Anderson.
Fraser’s segment was illustrated by Metis Nation British Columbia member, Natasha Donovan. While there haven’t been many details released about Fraser’s segment, Donovan shared one of the illustrations that will appear in the story, which was inspired by Iskwew Air’s participation in the 2019 Give Them Wings event — an initiative that aims to inspire Indigenous youth with the possibilities of flight.
Iskwew Air is based out of Vancouver International Airport and operates a single aircraft for domestic use — a twin-engine Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain. The airline provides 24-hour charter services to communities around B.C. Fraser, a Metis woman, chose the name “Iskwew” for the airline because of its symbolic meaning, being that it’s the Cree word for woman.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Fraser has remained “determined to persevere . . . and to survive this economic and social crisis and go on to thrive. I just believe there’s no other choice as an Indigenous and woman-owned air operator,” she told Skies.
Fraser is still keeping busy, and recently participated in a crowdfunding campaign using Iskwew Air’s Piper PA-31 to deliver essential goods to Indigenous communities in B.C. She has made five flights serving seven communities.
Moving forward, she hopes to be able to secure government and other contracts, and “be open to the different types of work that’s going to keep us going.”
Though it’s been a very challenging time for the industry, there are some hopeful things Fraser is witnessing. “I’m seeing Transport Canada working so hard to support industry,” she said. “There are opportunities in this great time of change to rebuild systems in a better way, to co-create systems that work for everybody, and to re-imagine our industry.”