Photography by Imagery Photography
One of the most significant trends in our business community today is support for Indigenous inclusion. An entirely new relationship is being formed between Canada’s Indigenous communities and broader Canadian society.
Reports published in 2015 and 2016 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada (available at nctr.ca) provide clarity on historical events. As Canada comes to a new public understanding of its history, we must consider the future. The Commission’s mandate was to answer the question, “Now that we know about residential schools and their legacy, what do we do about it?”
The Commission published 94 calls to action, which are now shaping Canada’s laws and societal norms. For Canada’s business community, the focus is on establishing equal opportunity.
The NSBA is at the forefront of some of the changes that are underway for multiple reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Canada as a government and as a society caused harm to a portion of its population. The calls to action are justified.
The NSBA represents the interests of Saskatoon’s business community, and there are additional reasons to support change when examining reconciliation through this lens. One consequence of Canada’s historical actions is a struggle with economic sustainability. There are excellent examples of Indigenous people building successful careers in business and of Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities that own and operate profitable companies. But equality does not exist, and that fact serves nobody’s best interest. A society is only as strong as the current state of all its communities. The Indigenous portion of our business community will be stronger with a collaborative approach.
In its role supporting its members, the NSBA has helped increase understanding of the issue at one of its signature events. Elder Judy Pelly offered a blessing at last year’s Business Builder Awards, presented by Nutrien, and she provided background on the TRC’s findings. Her comments provided an interesting backdrop to the purpose of the evening: to acknowledge the success of the Saskatoon business community. People in the audience were affected by her words.
The NSBA continues to help its members understand the importance and nature of the change that is underway in our society. A new award category is being introduced at this year’s banquet on March 19. The Indigenous Engagement Award will be presented to a company that supports equitable access for Indigenous inclusion in the economy. It specifically recognizes activities related to jobs, training and education, and entrepreneurship. In fact, the award’s criteria are based on the TRC’s call to action report.
Derek Hoffman, partner at Miller Thomson LLP, which sponsored the Indigenous Inclusion Award, reflects on the award’s importance. “I see Indigenous economic development as part of reconciliation. Historically speaking, Indigenous economic development did not receive proper support. More recently, however, it’s becoming more encouraged and part of the dialogue in the business community.”
Miller Thomson supports Indigenous communities throughout Canada, including Indigenous economic development initiatives. The company’s hands-on work with Indigenous ventures in sectors such as real estate, manufacturing, resource development, and renewable energy has provided a unique perspective.
“Recognizing the TRC is important for our firm. It came as an evolution in our thinking as we serve our own clients,” Hoffman explains. “As businesses, how do we encourage that trend toward reconciliation? Recognizing the Indigenous contributions and successes in the business community is important. Whether it is staff recruitment or partnering with Indigenous businesses on an economic development initiative, the efforts are beneficial. The NSBA has done a good job with the concept and criteria for this award.”
The banquet is a perfect platform to raise awareness for this important topic. It is one of the year’s most enjoyable business events. Roughly 700 people attend. The event brings together a strong community of decision-makers in a light and social atmosphere. Hoffman reflects on his experience at the event in previous years. “It’s not your typical business banquet. We have made great connections and enjoyed the networking. The banquet is a lot of fun. It’s one of the events that I look forward to.”
The large crowd will be in a sociable mood, but there is also a serious tone to the evening. Some of Saskatoon’s most successful companies will compete for recognition of their achievements. Awards will be presented in 14 categories as diverse as workplace safety, youth entrepreneurship, and employee retention and development.
To those Saskatoon companies that have successfully engaged with the Indigenous community, the new award will provide an opportunity to share their stories about the nature and impact of their efforts. For companies that are not yet familiar with Indigenous inclusion, this is an opportunity to learn.
Indigenous inclusion is now part of the business community’s operating environment. It is shaping important company decisions such as ownership structure, as well as policy related to core functions such as procurement and employment. Indigenous inclusion will have far-reaching effects and our business community will be stronger as a result.
2020 Banquet Details
Date: Thursday, March 19, 2020
Location: Prairieland Park
Ticket Information: www.nsbasask.com
For more information please contact the NSBA office.
First published in the March 2020 edition of The Business Advisor.