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Kear Porttris

Kear Porttris outdoors
  • Category: Emerging Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering, 2017; Master of Applied Science in Civil Engineering, 2021     
  • Current hometown: Victoria, BC                                     
  • Birthplace: Regina, SK

About Kear

Although a civil engineer by training, Kear Porttris considers himself an Indigenous community engagement specialist. A child of Métis and Chinese parents, he grew up in Treaty 4 territory in Regina, SK.

His vision for transformation in the field of engineering that creates better access and opportunities for Indigenous students and communities began to take form while studying at UVic. As a Principal and the relationship manager of a Victoria-based engineering company, Kear led business and relationship development with coastal First Nations across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. He continued this work on a national level as the director of Indigenous Relations at QM Environmental, a national environmental and industrial services contractor.

In his current roles as Indigenous Engagement and Training Lead with BC Hydro and owner of Porttris Consulting Group, he helps guide and connect Indigenous communities, governments and contractors to create more inclusion and understanding across projects, procurement and initiatives/programming.

He is one of the founders and chair of the ḴEL,ḴELOŦEN ȻE S,ISTEW̱ education fund for Indigenous students pursuing careers in architecture or engineering. He also sits on the board of the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria and is a sessional instructor in Civil Engineering at UVic.

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are or lead to future successes?

A central component of my experience at UVic involved accessing resources through the First Peoples House. As an Indigenous person—Chinese and Metis—I returned to school with a young family and I really wanted to be more involved in community. As I was not from Victoria, it was a way I could connect with Indigenous peers and people on campus. I knew that I wanted to work with my own community one day as an engineer, but I didn’t quite know what that would look like.

I am grateful for the opportunities here as I was able to apply for various scholarships and bursaries and make connections with community across UVic, spring-boarding my career. The shift toward Indigenous community engagement has been strengthened by my technical engineering background.

What skills or traits are needed to be good at what you do?

In community engagement, understanding how to work with diverse people and world views is really important. Being able to read people and create authentic relationships is crucial in this field. At the heart of it, my job is to bring people together. Things often do not go as planned, so being patient and bringing a calm attitude is vital to success.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

In 2021, I built a trucking company locally with a colleague and 3 Indigenous Communities as partners. We negotiated with the Capital Regional District to develop an agreement that was mutually beneficial to all parties. This work shows leadership in Indigenous reconciliation and economic development. I was intimately involved with the day-to-day operations of this project and it gave me the confidence to say, “You know what, I can do this on my own.” So that’s how Porttris Consulting Group took shape.

Do you have a mantra that you follow?

Always do what’s best for the community.

What is something small or large that you do for others?

I do a lot of mentoring. I’m always open to sharing how I got to where I am.

Is there a food that you can’t resist?

Dim Sum. [In Victoria], Jade Fountain is the best place to go.

What's the last great thing you've read and or watched?

Entergalactic on Netflix. It’s a movie about relationships. It was very surprising the way that it’s presented. Two people meet randomly and have this real great connection. Some funny things happen as well as some events that challenge their bond. It’s a beautifully done movie.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

I grew up left-wing—my dad brought me up to work for community and for society. He gave me the perspective that if you can be the best that you can be, society is actually going to be better in the long run. But more importantly, your life is going to be better.

What’s your advice to a younger person who’s uncertain about their future?

Find your passion and figure out how it fits into what you are doing. People always tell students and young people to “find your passion.” And now I’m that guy.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I helped create a scholarship for Indigenous engineers and architects, or soon-to-be Indigenous engineers and architects. There’s a lot of work going on with trying to increase inclusion in STEM for Indigenous people, as Indigenous representation in STEM professionals is extremely low. Demand and need for Indigenous professionals is growing exponentially, across all fields, and supporting these professionals is really important.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are open now through Oct. 13, 2023.