September is a month in which we often pause to reflect on the significance of our work, especially as we lead up to September 30 – the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. One of the reasons IndigenUs Consulting started up was to create a better way for organizations to work together, not only to support project success, but to create longer term benefits, and a brighter future, for Indigenous communities. For us, this is a major focus for us as we support Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. But we recognize that for organizations, Reconciliation can feel like a daunting process. So we wanted to share some of our insights with you.
First of all, at its core, Reconciliation requires a genuine commitment from all levels of society, including governments, institutions, and individuals. The goal of Reconciliation is to address the historical injustices, trauma, and systemic inequalities that Indigenous Peoples have faced and continue to experience. For companies and organizations looking to work with, and in the territories of, Indigenous Peoples, this can encompass many areas, and feel like a complex undertaking.
If you’re looking to better understand the meaning and process of Reconciliation, a good place to start is to read the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and their 94 Calls to Action. In particular for businesses, #92 (calls) 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.
We’ve also developed the following guidelines for organizations and individuals that will help to incorporate principles of Reconciliation and develop projects in a way that will demonstrate a commitment to addressing historic wrongs, while bringing more mutual and lasting benefits to all parties.
- Acknowledgement of Past Wrongs: Acknowledge and understand the historical injustices, including colonization, forced assimilation policies, and the impact of residential schools on Indigenous communities. Recognize the ongoing intergenerational trauma resulting from these actions.
- Respect for Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination: Support and respect the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination and decision-making over their lands, resources, and cultural practices. This includes recognizing and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
- Meaningful Consultation and Consent: Engage in meaningful engagement and consultation with Indigenous communities when planning and implementing policies or projects that could affect their rights or territories. Take the time to develop trusting relationships. Seek to obtain free, prior, and informed consent by thoroughly addressing Indigenous concerns, and even interests.
- Cultural Competency and Sensitivity: Promote cultural competency and sensitivity by educating and raising awareness in your organization about the history, culture, rights, interests and challenges faced by Indigenous communities.
- Education and Reconciliation: Integrate Indigenous history, cultures, and perspectives into organizational culture and events to promote awareness, understanding and Reconciliation.
- Collaboration and Partnerships: Foster partnerships and collaborations with Indigenous communities, organizations and businesses based on trust, respect, and shared decision-making. Involve Indigenous peoples in the development and implementation of policies and programs that affect them.
- Addressing Socio-Economic Disparities: Work towards closing the socio-economic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations through economic partnerships, business development, employment and other agreements with Indigenous Peoples and businesses.
- Land Rights and Title: Recognize and support Indigenous land rights and land title claims, which are crucial for maintaining cultural practices, traditional knowledge, and environmental stewardship.
- Accountability and Monitoring: Ensure accountability for Reconciliation efforts by setting measurable goals, tracking progress, and regularly evaluating the impact of policies and programs on Indigenous communities.
- Continued Learning and Adaptation: Embrace a lifelong commitment to learning about Indigenous values, interests and issues and adjusting approaches based on feedback from Indigenous communities.
While the above guidelines are a great starting point for organizations looking to embed Reconciliation into their business, is is also essential to understand that the concerns and experiences of Indigenous communities regarding land resources and traditional land can vary widely across different regions and communities – each community must be approached with respect for their unique history, circumstances and perspectives.
Reconciliation is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires sustained effort and dedication from all parties involved. It requires empathy, understanding, and a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths to build a more inclusive and equitable society for all Canadians.