Truth & Reconciliation in Business in 2023
An Update on Call to Action 92 in the Business World
The Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous-led research and education centre based out of Toronto Metropolitan University, recently released its annual Status Update on Reconciliation.
This report marks seven years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Final Report and 92 Calls to Action, and overwhelming evidence shows all levels of government in Canada are still only in the beginning stages – the same is true for the business community.
We have shared our thoughts on this before, with our article on 7 Ways to Incorporate Reconciliation Into Your Business, published almost four years ago.
Even as the Calls to Action remain the same, we recognize the landscape of reconciliation is dynamic. As businesses, governments, and individuals attempt different forms of reconciliation, evaluating the effectiveness of these actions is essential to ensure that “progress” is not merely symbolic.
Read on to learn what organizations can do to contribute to Call to Action 92 and discover success stories of businesses that are leading the way.
What is Call to Action 92?
Call to Action 92 in the TRC’s Final Report is addressed directly to the business community.
Here is the full Call to Action:
- We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.
- Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
- Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
We will be delving further into the nuances of this Call to Action in an upcoming article in our Reconciliation in Business series.
For now, here are practical examples of how the business community can advance reconciliation.
Committing to Meaningful Consultation: Relationships, and FPIC (92. i)
This issue deals specifically with companies engaged in economic development projects with Indigenous groups, specifically those involved in resource extraction and activities with an impact on Indigenous territories.
Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a specific right for Indigenous Peoples recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP.)
Organizations like Cultural Survival and this primer from the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk (an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Indian Country Today, and High Country News) provide excellent resources for understanding FPIC more fully. Organizations and businesses are encouraged to engage Indigenous businesses to help implement decolonized FPIC frameworks. Companies like Decolonize Together and Future Ancestors Services can help guide organizations through this process.
In summary, committing to meaningful consultation comes down to a few key principles:
- Recognizing the importance of an Indigenous community’s ability to make decisions freely, prior to events like land allocation or approvals, from a fully informed position. Only once these conditions have been met can consent be made.
- Learning about and respecting local communities, and finding genuine ways to build connections.
The upside of proper FPIC is the ability to promote your organization’s positive relationships with Nations, which is especially impactful considering there is much more content in the business news world about companies that fail in this regard.
Businesses also need to recognize the importance of respecting data rights when working with Indigenous groups and communities. Our recently-released #DataBack eBook offers a deep dive into the concept of Indigenous Data Sovereignty (for a summarized version, start with our companion article.)
Partner with Indigenous Orgs and Diversify Your Supply Chain (92. i)
Even if your core business objectives don’t involve Indigenous Peoples in any way, there are still ways to forge partnerships through the ever-expanding world of Indigenous business.
Cater from an Indigenous-owned restaurant for your next company event. Purchase handmade items from a local Indigenous artist for your next company event “swag bag”, or find companies like Virtual Gurus which provide business services.
It’s important to build meaningful partnerships with groups and communities whose traditional territory you live and work in.
There are many great examples out there to inspire you, like Marshall Fabrics commissioning Indigenous artists to design fabric patterns, “tribute nights” in the National Hockey League, and the Downie Wenjack Legacy Spaces program.
Hiring, Retaining and Training Indigenous Talent (92. ii)
Hiring Indigenous talent is a manageable first step for many businesses.
One way to do this is by adding a statement to your job postings like "Self-identifying as Indigenous or having first-hand knowledge or experience working with an Indigenous community will be considered an asset" to new job postings or making your company known in Indigenous-focused job events and boards.
Looking for Indigenous job boards to advertise recent job postings?
Here are a few to get you started:
Offering training or professional development opportunities to Indigenous professionals is another option. Fort Langley, B.C.-based Jelly Marketing is a great example of this.
By partnering with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Jelly offers six Indigenous scholarships for its Digital Marketing Bootcamp.
If your organization is not large or financially stable enough to offer training for Indigenous talent, consider partnering with larger organizations that can offer funding assistance.
Another way to support the next generation of Indigenous talent is to sponsor scholarships or offer internships for students.
You can also reach out to Indigenous student groups at local universities and colleges to tap into newly-educated talent.
Here are some examples:
Flexibility Through Team Policies (92. ii)
Another important aspect of making your organization welcoming to Indigenous employees is offering flexibility for your team’s policies.
This could mean offering time off for employees to attend ceremonies (examples often include fasts, sweats, or gatherings) or allowing for the extension of provisions allowed for unexpected events with family members. In many Indigenous communities, the concept of “extended family” often resembles a typical “immediate family.”
At Animikii, we recently started offering a program to substitute common statutory holidays, which is a policy that can be offered to all employees allowing everyone to embrace holidays meaningful to their cultures.
Cultural Safety Training (92. iii)
Cultural safety is how respect for culture is established within an organization.
Training for cultural safety is a step towards a respectful, safer workspace for Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups.
An effective way to start these conversations within your organization could be a cultural safety course like San’yas, an anti-racism cultural safety training program developed by the Provincial Health Services Authority in British Columbia in collaboration with Animikii.
This course is mandatory for all new Animikii Team Members.
Other cultural safety, Indigenous history, and related training courses include:
Reconciliation in Business: Taking the Next Steps
Stay tuned for an upcoming article on reconciliation in business discussing how Call to Action 92 could someday be accomplished, and what an action plan for this would look like.
Looking for additional resources about your role in reconciliation in business and beyond?
We recommend these sources:
- Indigenous entrepreneurship: Making a business case for reconciliation - CBC News
- Entrepreneurship as Reconciliation - Canadian SME Small Business Magazine
- What Are the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action & How Are We Working Toward Achieving Them Today? - Reconciliation Education