September 30th is a day where individuals are reminded of the disastrous legacy left behind by the impacts of residential schools. This day is not only intended to acknowledge the history and commit to continuous education but to also take action towards reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) dedicated their existence to informing Canadians about the residential schools’ past. They researched and recorded the truth from anyone who was affected by the establishment of residential schools. They gathered stories from residential school survivors, employees, their families, churches, government officials, etc. All stories were told. From this extensive research, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: 94 Calls to Action was born.
What does this mean for businesses?
With such a solemn day in Canadian history, people and organizations are wondering what they can do to help. Some people might look at the entirety of the day and think there is no way that their small business can make a difference. While there are outlined ways to help such as Action #92 provided by the TRC, there are also actions to take individually to help be a better ally to Indigenous people and the Indigenous culture.
Action #92 specifically calls upon the corporate sector. This call to action is much more than wearing an orange shirt on September 30th. Instead, it insists upon the use of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for all actions in the corporate sector, their decision making, and their leadership. This document comprises 46 articles which state the protected rights that Indigenous peoples, their land, and their resources have. You can familiarize yourself with the declaration here.
The TRC calls for the following:
Meaningful consultation - This is much more than documenting concerns. Meaningful consultation means truly listening to Indigenous peoples concerns, discussing them and acting to accommodate those concerns. This may mean that policies / procedures will need to be changed to reflect the concerns. Acting upon the consultation is what makes it meaningful and helps establish lasting relationships.
Provide Indigenous peoples with equal access to jobs and training / education opportunities in the corporate sector.
Economic development projects - When looking to establish economic development projects that have the ability to affect indigenous peoples, their land, and/or their resources - the consent of these indigenous people must first be received before proceeding. They have a right to be thoroughly informed prior to giving their consent to these projects.
Long-term sustainable opportunities - When involving Indigenous people, their land and/or their resources in economic development, it is important to be sure that the Indigenous communities are receiving the long-term sustainable benefits.
Education & training on the history of Indigenous people - While training on diversity and inclusion would help, there must also be training on the history of indigenous peoples. This means that all managers should be educated on the past. This will ensure there are no knowledge gaps. This training and education should include the legacy of residential schools, the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal Rights, Indigenous Law, and Aboriginal - Crown relations (Indigenous Works, n.d).
The faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta offers an excellent (free) course called Indigenous Canada. This course is online and module based, ensuring that it is available to anyone who wishes to take it. The course explores the complexities of situations Indigenous people face currently and historically. There are 12 modules, each requiring 2 - 3 hours weekly for completion. For more information, or to sign up click here.
In addition they have introduced a new course on addressing stereotypes and “challenge the narratives that both skew the lived experience of Indigenous peoples and allow the replication of stereotypes that reinforce colonial relationships.”
Intercultural competency - This skill comes from training, education, and experience. Intercultural competency is the ability to work with, communicate, and act respectfully with everyone. An example of this is understanding that different cultures have different communication styles / preferences, and working with those cultures respectfully. It is important to be open-minded, self aware, and not to make assumptions and learn how to respectfully ask when not sure.
Basic human rights & anti-racism - All employers should provide equal opportunities to employees. Your organization should be dedicated to the highest standard of equality, non-discrimination, inclusion, dignity, and diversity. To read more about how you can create and foster an environment of diversity and inclusion in your organization read our D & I article here.
Ask yourself questions like:
Where are my knowledge gaps?
How does our organization engage with Indigenous communities / people / businesses?
Are Indigenous peoples fairly represented within my organization?
What kind of Indigenous history or culture education / training opportunities are offered to the people in my organization?
By answering the questions truthfully, it should give you a good idea of where your organization stands. We offer support through crucial conversations and policy review to ensure the policy is aligned with the organization's values.
How to be an ally:
Learn, listen & challenge yourself. Sometimes what you learned in the past is not always correct and you must be willing to relearn and acknowledge your biases. This can be done through research and having conversations.
Create a supportive environment where everyone feels safe to be themselves, allow opportunities for individuals to express their thoughts and their feelings, and (although this is uncomfortable) acknowledge your privilege. Once you acknowledge your privilege, transfer it to the individuals around you who have less.
How Lakeland HR supports:
We are proud to integrate diversity in our policy development and all practices, including recruitment. For our Leadership training we have proudly partnered with local Servant Leaders to integrate Indigenous culture, history and leadership with a focus on value based, self awareness, people centered, accountability, and developing the communication skills to have hard conversations. Not sure where to start, contact us to start the conversation.
Calgary Foundation. (2019). Indigenous ally toolkit. https://calgaryfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Ally-Toolkit-web.pdf
Department of Justice Canada. (2020). United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. Government of Canada. https://justice.gc.ca/eng/declaration/un_declaration_EN1.pdf
Indigenous Works (n.d). TRC call to action. https://indigenousworks.ca/en/partnership/what-does-intersection-mean/trc-call-action
Jonas, S. (2021). Want to be an ally to indigenous people? Listen and unlearn, say two community workers. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/how-can-you-be-a-better-ally-to-indigenous-people-1.6189749