Staff Spotlight: Brendan Butler

November 15, 2023

Senior Project Manager thrilled to help change lives with housing projects

Brendan Butler is currently working as a Senior Project Manager in the MMF's Housing Department.  

Red River Métis Citizen Brendan Butler never expected his first job after university to be so connected to the Red River Métis community.

"It never really crossed my mind when I was in engineering," he said. "I just wanted to build bridges, kind of like everyone else who wants to be an engineer."

During his time at the University of Manitoba, Butler was a proud member of the Engineering Access Program (ENGAP), which provides opportunities for Indigenous students to enter and excel in the faculty. The engineering student accessed financial assistance through the Manitoba Métis Federation's Métis Employment and Training Department.

After graduating with a degree in civil engineering and a minor in management, he began working for the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF).

"I got an email and I think it was through ENGAP or maybe it was through the co-op program, but the MMF was looking to hire someone," he said. "From there I was like, 'what a great opportunity to help give back to the MMF after they paid for my last year of schooling.'"

The Red River Métis graduate has spent the last four years quickly working his way up through the Housing Department.

"The Housing Department has taken on a steel framing initiative where we are using steel studs instead of conventional wood studs to help build long-term sustainable housing for our Red River Métis Citizens. I was initially brought on to work on that," he said. "I did that for about a year and then it became pretty apparent that there were lots of other projects that needed assistance in regards to management and so, I kind of took a leap from that and started working with Leon (Hebert), another housing employee doing the childcare centres, and the Northwest Métis Council Regional Office in Dauphin."

Butler has had the chance to work with the MMF's Early Learning and Child Care Department on different childcare centres throughout Manitoba, including Swan River, Dauphin, St. Eustache, St. Andrews, and one that is currently under construction in St. Boniface.

The Red River Métis engineer's new position as a Senior Project Manager has allowed him to oversee a variety of projects within the Housing Department, including: Mazoun, a transitional housing complex for Youth aging out of care; Michif Manor, temporary housing for families while their loved one receives hospital treatment; and Fre Maachi, a homelessness hub that has 20 residential units for Citizens who are homeless or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

"The fact that we know we're all changing lives, whether it be affordable housing or childcare centres or whatever else we may be doing, it's such rewarding work and everyone is there for the right reasons. Everyone is so passionate about their job, and they work so hard."
- Brendan Butler 

The MMF broke ground on Mazoun in July 2023, with plans for a fall 2024 launch. Located on Edison Avenue in Winnipeg, the facility will include offices for staff and 14 units: 10 one-bedroom transitional suites, 2 two-bedroom suites for family reunification, and 2 one-bedroom suites for emergency situations where Youth are at risk of experiencing homelessness. Mazoun will also provide Red River Métis Youth with wraparound and culturally safe services.

Butler is incredibly proud of what this building will mean for children aging out of the child welfare system.

"The City of Winnipeg did their homelessness census and the census showed that 50 per cent of respondents were in Child and Family Services (CFS) growing up," he said. "So youth aging out of CFS, once they become an adult, have been historically cut off from services that have left them vulnerable and likely to experience homelessness. They don't have the supports in place to transition out of CFS successfully, and it's a big reason for homelessness in Winnipeg. The Mazoun project focuses on creating housing for these Youth, giving them the supports they need."

Another project that Butler has had the chance to work on with the MMF's Health and Wellness Department is the development of Michif Manor. The MMF broke ground on Michif Manor in July 2023. Located at 790 Notre Dame Avenue in Winnipeg, the build's housing concept is similar to the Ronald McDonald House. It will provide culturally appropriate, affordable temporary housing for Red River Métis families while their loved one receives medical treatment in Winnipeg.

"There will be kitchen facilities, so you can cook, and it'll be affordable, so it'll help take that kind of financial burden off families who are going through difficult times in their lives," Butler said. "With 12 units, Citizens of all ages will be able to take advantage of this. It will be similar to a hotel, with additional amenities to support our Red River Métis Citizens."

The Red River Métis engineer also had the chance to reflect on Fre Maachi, a 20-unit transitional Housing First program created to assist in the fight to end homelessness in Winnipeg. Located at 670 Main Street in Winnipeg, Fre Maachi opened its doors in March 2023.

"Fre Maachi focuses on people who are currently homeless or people who are at risk of becoming homeless. They also provide the supports required to make their transition successful," he said. "The main floor is wraparound supports, and the second and third floors are the residential section of the building."

The Red River Métis engineer has worked on a variety of projects including the development of various childcare centres, Mazoun, Michif Manor, and Fre Maachi. 

One of the best parts of Butler's job has been seeing how much his Red River Métis Government has positively impacted the community.

"I was at 670 Main (Fre Maachi) to follow up on some things that were going on in the building and I was there after it had opened. I was in the front lobby waiting to speak with the manager there when I saw somebody getting accepted into the facility," said the engineer. "They were in tears once they heard that they were going to be accepted into the facility. Seeing this broke my heart, but it made me feel so good about what we're doing here at the MMF. And it's not like we're (just) affecting people five years from now. We're changing people's lives for the next 50 years, and to me that is really rewarding."

Knowing the difficulties that come with undertaking such projects, Butler is optimistic about what lies ahead for housing projects across the Red River Métis Homeland.

"It's not an easy process, and there's always lots of hurdles, not just with the City or with the contractors, but it's hurdles with the people in the neighbourhood and getting the perception that, you know, this housing isn't a bad thing for their community," he said. "If people have access to housing, it's going lead to a better city."

As Senior Project Manager, Butler is proud of the MMF's dedication to Métis procurement in construction projects.

"Our Métis economic procurement policy was designed to help support our Red River Métis Citizens, whether they own a business, are currently employed in the construction industry, or are training to become employed in the industry," he said. "So, when we're tendering our projects, we are looking at how many Métis Citizens are working for your company. Is your company owned by a Métis Citizen? Do you provide educational opportunities for Red River Métis Citizens? Is that something you're willing to do in the future if you don't currently do so?"

Developing these connections with other Red River Métis businesses has allowed for a shift in the construction industry that is inclusive of Métis entrepreneurs, tradespeople, and those interested in pursuing a career in the trades.

"What a great time to be a Red River Métis Citizen in the construction industry because of the economic spinoff we have," said Butler. "I love talking to students, contractors, and anyone in our industry being like, 'you guys are in such a good position right now, and the MMF is doing so much to support the economic prosperity of all you guys.' Every Red River Métis Citizen right now has an unbelievable chance to thrive from the MMF."

Butler, pictured with Housing and Property Management Minister Will Goodon and Finance Officer Gloria McKay, shares a deep passion for the community and takes great pride in the projects the MMF has taken on in recent years.  

The Senior Project Manager takes great pride in working in the Housing Department, having a deep appreciation for his colleagues and the strong bond they share.

"The best part about my department is the people I work with, 100 per cent. My colleagues are so good, so knowledgeable. I've had a lot of good mentors over the four years I've worked at the MMF, and you can just tell that everyone I work with has the same motivations as me," he said.

The shared passion for the community amongst his coworkers has made Butler's experience at the MMF even more fulfilling.

"The fact that we know we're all changing lives, whether it be (through) affordable housing, childcare centres, or whatever else we may be doing, it's such rewarding work and everyone is there for the right reasons. Everyone is so passionate about their job, and they work so hard," he said.

Butler has been working towards his Professional Engineer (P. Eng.) licensing, which he will be completing soon.

"Right now, I'm considered an Engineer-In-Training, and it normally takes about four years to get your P. Eng. Once I get my P. Eng., I'll be a licensed professional engineer in Manitoba," he said. "I'm lucky to be able to get that designation because of all the great experience I've received at the MMF."

The Red River Métis Citizen's growth at the MMF has allowed him to reach achievements in his career beyond his expectations.

"I am probably at the peak of my career right now in regard to where I thought I would be and what I would achieve. I didn't think I would be this far along so early in my career. I'm lucky to work at the MMF," said Butler. "They give you a ton of responsibility early on in your career, so I've had opportunities many of my other classmates who graduated with me have not had, which has put me further ahead in development and in my career. I'm grateful to the MMF for allowing me to gain all that experience."


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