By Rebecca Chartrand and Michelle Boivin
As Canada strives for economic and social reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, businesses and organizations must align leadership with the opportunities that gave all Canadians the opportunity to live, work and prosper on Canadian soil. By adopting an Indigenous-first approach to employment equity, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians can benefit from greater economic reconciliation, improved opportunities for financial stability, and equitable and inclusive workplace environments.
From where we are situated, Winnipeg (Manitoba) is located within the territory of the first Canadian Indian Treaty, known as Treaty One Territory. It was signed in 1871, a few short years after confederation when newcomers declared Canada a new country.
From a sovereignty and historical lens, the Canadian Indian Treaties were created a few short years after confederation. They were necessary agreements between Indigenous Peoples and a newly formed government that made it possible for newcomers to settle within our territories and homeland. When one hears the statement “we are all treaty people,” it is meant to acknowledge this history and the treaty responsibilities that all Canadians have in upholding those agreements. With that, non-Indigenous peoples must recognize the opportunities afforded to them by the Canadian Indian Treaties and live up to the responsibilities of those treaty promises. Canadians must recognize that if they live and work in Canada, or own land or run a business in Canada, this was made possible because of the Canadian Indian Treaties.
From an anti-racism lens, we must come to terms with the fact that there was never an intention of fairness or a desire for equity, and this too is what needs to be reconciled. We are at a moment in time when we are finally looking at these ugly truths. That is why we must support Indigenous-first diversity, to ensure it aligns with the mounting societal calls for change outlined in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
When discussing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), employment equity and/or opportunity for Indigenous Peoples in Canada, conventional methods usually focus on reducing workplace inequities between genders, cultures and visible minorities. This is not enough. We at Indigenous Strategy Alliance believe we must take an Indigenous-first diversity approach to move beyond the status quo. This means digging deeper, emphasizing moral obligations, addressing the rights and responsibilities of treaties, and addressing the needs, experiences and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples.
It is imperative that we address systemic racism and discrimination in order to create meaningful opportunities that are tailored to Indigenous Peoples. This includes ensuring Indigenous-focused recruitment, training and education, as well as employment opportunities that address historical wrongs and acknowledge genocide, its impacts and the ongoing marginalization and oppression of Indigenous Peoples. This is an opportunity to create a solution where everyone benefits and provides a lens that can be explored and adopted by employers across the country.
In Manitoba alone, Indigenous Peoples make up 20 per cent of the population and need to make up more of the labour force, especially where we are underrepresented. We have the youngest and fastest-growing demographic that cannot be overlooked.
With the adoption of an Indigenous-first approach to employment equity, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians can benefit from greater economic reconciliation, improved race relations, opportunities for improved wellness and financial stability that ensure Indigenous Peoples can live with dignity, and enjoy privileges and opportunities that have been historically denied.
For businesses and organizations wanting to make progress on Indigenous-first diversity, equity and inclusion, the team at Indigenous Strategy Alliance can provide essential support. This includes creating tailored recruitment, training and mentorship programs that are specifically geared toward Indigenous Peoples. We can work with your business or organization to create initiatives that increase Indigenous representation in leadership roles, create education and training initiatives that focus on understanding and respecting Indigenous cultures, histories and traditions, and strive to create safe, positive workplace cultures to welcome Indigenous Peoples. We can also provide guidance on how to create an inclusive and equitable workplace environment for everyone.
Interested in learning more about Indigenous Strategy Alliance as an Indigenous-owned and run business? Contact Rebecca Chartrand, Michelle Boivin or Ben Carr by visiting indigenousstrategy.com.
Rebecca Chartrand (left), the CEO of Indigenous Strategy Alliance, is an Anishinaabe First Nations woman from Treaty 4 territory in Manitoba with over 25 years of experience in K-12 and post-secondary education, including the arts. She has a strong sense of pride in her identity and is highly respected for her courage, integrity, voice and vision. Chartrand’s work focuses on bridging diverse communities through reconciliation, anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and Indigenous and multicultural education frameworks. She leverages Indigenous ways of teaching, learning and leading to bring a holistic perspective to her leadership style and purpose-driven initiatives.
Michelle Boivin (right) is the VP of Communications and Engagement with Indigenous Strategy Alliance and is a highly-experienced project manager with 25 years of expertise providing comprehensive project management, marketing and planning services to some of Canada’s most notable organizations in the voluntary, not-for-profit, Métis, First Nation and government sectors. She has led numerous high-level community, regional and national consultations and events for Indigenous communities, government agencies and academic institutions. An active member of Winnipeg’s Indigenous community, Boivin dedicates her time and energy to support the healthy growth and development of children, youth and families in Winnipeg.