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February 8, 2019
The greatest barrier of engaging businesses in Reconciliation is the idea that participating in Reconciliation is optional.
However, what works for one company may not work for another. The purpose of this article is to expose you to the resources and ideas behind Reconciliation and provide suggestions on how to incorporate Reconciliation and it's principles into your business.
First, examine where you are with your business. Where are the shortcomings in your business’ ability to engage with Indigenous issues and Reconciliation? How can you fill those gaps? Are you taking advantage of local talent and knowledge? Are you forging connections with the local communities? How are you responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action or to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)?
The most important thing you can do is focus on having an earnest, well-intentioned, and respectful approach. One of the first steps you can take is educating yourself and your coworkers on language.
Language is important, particularly in Reconciliation. It is important to keep your language respectful and to ask questions when you’re unsure of what to say. The point is to shift your mindset to one centred on Reconciliation and grounded in respect.
This part is nice because it's very concrete – we’ve compiled a list of responsibilities for your business that comply with the TRC’s Calls to Action; namely, the Commission’s 92nd Call to Action: Business and Reconciliation.
When it comes to applying Reconciliation principles to your business, there are a number of practical ways to get started.
Relates to Call To Action 92) ii.
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.
We often get requests asking how to “diversify the workforce” and the answer is simple: hire more Indigenous talent. This can be as easy as adding "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, attending an Indigenous job fair, or posting your job on an Indigenous-focused job board like Amik or First Nations Knowledge Network.
Another thing worth mentioning is businesses who employ Indigenous staff may have to provide time off for their employees to go to ceremony (i.e., an annual fast or sweat). Another thing to consider is how an immediate family member may be defined differently for Indigenous Peoples. This can lead to changing your policy around bereavement leave. At Animikii, we have broadened our definitions to accommodate these differences, but it is not standard in most policies. As business leaders, we can push the country forward on changing these policies and taking action to protect Indigenous rights.
Also relates to Call To Action 92) ii.
This point is less about hiring Indigenous professionals and more about developing Indigenous talent. One way to do this is to connect to your local education institutions - start by reaching out to the Indigenous Student Services departments - and offer paid internships and summer programs. If you already do this, make sure that you develop a program that specifically targets Indigenous students.
Also relates to Call To Action 92) i.
Diversifying your supply chain can start anywhere and can include (but is certainly not limited to) hiring an Indigenous caterer for company gatherings, having an Anishinabe-owned company print your business cards, using a Cree accountant to file your taxes, hiring a Métis architect to design your new office building, or having an Inuit filmmaker produce your marketing content. The point is Indigenous talent is everywhere, in every industry and corner of Turtle Island.
The main thing is to become aware of services and products offered by Indigenous entrepreneurs and making a point to #BuyIndigenous. Wherever you're making purchasing decisions, we can assure you that Indigenous businesses are there, thriving. A great resource for connecting with Indigenous businesses is through the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses (CCAB) and by participating in their “Supply Change” Initiative.
Call To Action 92) iii:
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.
Now that you’ve hired your talent, it’s your responsibility to train them. Cultural safety training is a great tool to foster a safe and respectful workplace for peoples across all cultures. The TRC calls for training on the history and legacy of Residential Schools and UNDRIP along with education on Indigenous rights, law, and crown relations for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees.
This is not something they would have learned in school, so it is important to ensure each of your employees understands the significance, history, and reasoning behind these policies. One such course is Indigenous Canada, a free online course offered by the University of Alberta. At Animikii, we use San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety training developed by the Provincial Health Services Authority in BC. Another great resource is the #Next150 Challenge which is a series of challenges which encourages participants to engage with and examine their own roles in the Reconciliation movement.
Call To Action 92) i.
“Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.”
If we learned anything from the Trans-Mountain Pipeline overruling, it’s that we cannot stress enough the importance of engaging in meaningful consultation with the Nation on whose land you are working.
This means learning about and respecting the local communities and finding genuine ways to build connections. This can mean inviting local community members to events, listening to concerns, and finding mutually beneficial and natural partnerships. This could also mean investing in Indigenous non-profits for your company's giving back initiatives. We must also recognize that we’re working across cultures, regardless of if you’re working with a Nation from the other side of Canada or just across the street.
Also relates to Call To Action 92) iii.
If you’re familiar with Animikii, you’d know that - despite the fact that National Indigenous Peoples Day is not yet a stat holiday - we provide the day off for all of our employees. We do this for many reasons: so employees can engage with their cultures and communities, to learn more about local cultures and communities, to show our respect for the contributions of Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and to have a day to remember the Survivors - and legacy - of Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop. As Canadian businesses, we need to show that diversity and inclusion are more than stated values for us - they're values we’re proud to act on at every opportunity.
You can also implement Reconciliation principles by shifting the language of your everyday office interactions. For example, using Territory Acknowledgements into your communications, at the beginning of events, and to start some meetings will show respect to the Peoples on whose territory you live and do business.
If you are unsure of how to do a Territory Acknowledgement, we’ve included a list of resources to help you get started.
As Senator Sinclair, former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says, “Reconciliation is not a spectator sport.” Reconciliation is not something that government can legislate into reality and it’s not something Indigenous people can force on the rest of Canada. Every person in Canada - every citizen, every immigrant, every refugee, and every visitor - is responsible for Reconciliation.
So give your employees National Indigenous Peoples Day off; include a Territory Acknowledgement on your website, introduce yourself in relation to place at the start of meetings; incorporate local practices or protocols into your business culture; work with local language keepers to present your mission statement in the local language; pay for cultural safety training; bring more Indigenous contractors into your supply chain; hire, train and promote Indigenous talent; and change the language in your materials to be respectful of Indigenous sovereignty. There's really no shortage of ways to get started, it just takes a little courage and some willingness to learn.
In case you missed it, please watch this recorded webinar presented by Animikii to the B Corp community.
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February 8, 2019
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