We aim to build and maintain strong, respectful and successful relationships with Indigenous peoples while acknowledging and respecting their unique constitutionally protected rights. We recognize and respect the inherent relationship between Indigenous peoples and the land’s natural resources. It is our goal to incorporate Indigenous peoples’ unique views and perspectives early and often during new project development while remaining adaptive and flexible throughout the process. We look to our Indigenous Relations Statement of Principles to guide us forward in restoring mutually respectful relationships with all First Peoples.
For generations, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were sent to residential schools, away from their families, to be instructed in how to live a non-Indigenous lifestyle. The first residential school began operations in 1828, with mandatory enrollment beginning in 1884 for children under 16 years old, and the last residential school closed in 1996. In these schools, many children suffered abuse and punishment for speaking their language or practising their culture. During this time, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children were taught that Indigenous culture and languages were irrelevant, paving the way for the inequality and racism still prevalent in Canada today.
The truth of the residential school system and its multi-generational effects were reported in depth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, with the aim to document the experiences of victims and recommend a way forward.
“Because it took so many generations to get to this point, it’s going to take us a few generations to be able to say we are making progress. Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts.”
— Justice Murray Sinclair, TRC Chair
In the spirit of reconciliation, we are taking action on the three recommendations for businesses from the TRC Calls to Action report:
1. Meaningful consultation on projects
We engage and consult with Indigenous peoples on our large development projects, such as the Southwestern Landfill proposal. Through this dialogue, we are respecting Indigenous peoples’ constitutionally protected rights to be consulted. This also enables us to incorporate Indigenous input and create better projects, learn about Indigenous history and culture and form respectful relationships that we can build on to create new partnerships.
2. Equal access to jobs and training
We connect with employment services at Indigenous communities and attend job fairs and provide access to our job postings. We also actively consider how our projects could create new employment and economic or partnership opportunities with Indigenous peoples and communities.
3. Employee education
As in most areas of life, education and awareness are critical for positive change. Employees are gaining knowledge about Indigenous rights, history and culture, as well as forging personal connections. We provide opportunities like lunch-and-learns, casual interactions through supporting Pow Wows and other initiatives, attending events and hosting tours.
Taking the time to learn more about one another and share knowledge with others is the first step toward reconciliation.
Métis Education Session
In 2017, we provided our employees with an opportunity to learn about the rich culture and history of the Métis Nation. Brian Kon, Chair of the Niagara Region Métis Council, shared some stories, created dialogue and answered our employees’ questions. We maintain a strong relationship with the Niagara Region Métis Council and work closely in assisting the Council to promote the historical values, culture, language and traditions of the Métis Nation.
To learn more about how we are Building Indigenous Relations, see Related Stories & Links.