Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba gets first female land surveyor

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IT'S taken 131 years, but the country's oldest land surveyors' association finally has its first female surveyor.

Winnipegger Tricia Christie will stake out a place for herself in the Association of Manitoba Land Surveyors (AMLS) history books when she receives her land surveyors commission during a ceremony today at the Inn at The Forks.

AMLS president Don Bourgeois admitted Tuesday he's surprised it's taken so long for Manitoba to land its first female surveyor.

"Given the changes in technology, more women entering non-traditional professions and the demand for our profession, we would have liked women entering the profession before now," he said. "(But) having said that, we are most proud of our new member," he said, "and look forward to having more women entering the profession in the future."

Christie joins 52 other commissioned land surveyors working in the province.

She said in an interview at her new home away from home -- the downtown office of Barnes & Duncan Surveying & Engineering -- that she never pictured herself as a trailblazer when she embarked on her 11-year journey to become a land surveyor.

Sure, she knew early on Manitoba didn't have any female surveyors. But she also knew she had a long haul ahead of her to obtain her commission, "and I really thought another female would come in during that time."

But none did. And while it's nice to be first, Christie said she doesn't want to be the one and only for long.

"I'd like to see more. I hope to see more," she said, adding she knows of at least one woman who's articling with a local firm and should get her commission within a couple of years.

Bourgeois said association officials also know of three to five others "who are in the system" and will hopefully obtain their commission and take jobs here.

Manitoba is one of the last provinces in the country, and the last in Western Canada, to get a female surveyor. Bourgeois said size probably had something to do with that.

He said Manitoba has a fraction of the surveyors bigger provinces such as Ontario and Quebec have, so it makes sense they'd see women enter the field sooner.

Also, land surveying used to be considered a man's job because of the physical demands.

Bourgeois and Christian Korell, owner of Barnes & Duncan, said surveyors used to spend a lot of their time in the field battling bugs and mosquitoes in the summer and snowbanks and bitterly cold temperatures in the winter. And if they were working on a big project in a remote part of the province, it could mean months away from home, living and working in a wilderness camp.

But the advent of new technologies -- the Internet, global-positioning systems, laptops, satellites and cellphones -- has changed the job in the last 15 to 20 years. Surveyors can collect data and supervise their field teams from their office -- and often spend up to 70 per cent of their time there, Korell said.

Thanks to a prolonged construction boom, the last decade also has been a good time to be a land surveyor in Manitoba. Bourgeois said there are about a dozen surveying firms in the province -- and they're all busy.

"There is so much work to do. With every single capital project you're seeing, there is a land surveyor involved at the beginning," he said.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2012 B5

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