Tribal peoples wish corporate effort beyond September 30

Chelsee Pettit has spent much of the summer working with designers to design and create clothing that reflects Indigenous values. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Toronto — Chelsee Pettit spent much of the summer working with designers to design and create clothing that reflected the Indigenous values ​​she hoped to see in people’s minds as Canada celebrates its second National Day of Truth and Reconciliation .

But in the days leading up to September 30, she noticed several companies didn’t have the same foresight and were scrambling to place bulk orders at her Aaniin store.

“It’s just kind of funny how other organizations, all non-Indigenous, are last minute and pushing this [travail] aborigines,” observed Ms. Pettit, an Anishinaabe woman.

“We’re not like the big department stores that only have disposable t-shirts and they’re available for everyone. I think it would be very helpful to work with us in advance rather than just asking us a week before the big day.”

Ms. Pettit has done her best to fill last-minute orders, but she and others in the Indigenous business community see this trend as a sign of how much extra work Canadian companies need to do to turn support for Indigenous communities into an ongoing effort 365 days a year.

While many companies are encouraging their employees to don orange sweaters — a tradition started in 2013 by boarding school survivor Phyllis Webstad — or sell orange goods on September 30, those efforts are quickly waning. Businesses often do little more to make indigenous voices and concerns heard.

“It’s positive that we see education and awareness, but it can be quite draining and detrimental for tribal peoples who see it as a day of action and then nothing for the rest of the year,” noted Tabatha Bull, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB).

Ms. Bull and Pettit believe that if an employer wants to shape truth and reconciliation, it should do so throughout the year.

This effort should begin with educating staff about the traumas, old and new, that tribal peoples face and how to support those affected.

Natives “on guard” at work

Ms Pettit recalls working in 2021 when the remains of 215 children were found on the site of a former residential school in British Columbia.

“My boss at the time was like, ‘Oh, well, everyone knew that,’ and kind of dismissed it, but I was feeling very emotional that day for obvious reasons, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.” She explained .

Studies also show this.

A 2021 report by equity organization Catalyst Canada found that about 52% of 86 Indigenous respondents surveyed were “alert” at work and about 60% felt psychologically unsafe at work.

The study is based on a survey of 820 working Canadians from various underrepresented groups, but Catalyst isolated the results of the Indigenous respondents for this report because their need to be vigilant stood out.

Krystal Abotossaway, president of the Indigenous Professional Association of Canada, said she sees more and more companies thinking about what they can do to improve their corporate culture and support Indigenous communities in recent years.

Territory recognition, which indicates which indigenous peoples lived in and cared for a place where events are held, is a good place to start and is becoming more common, she stressed.

Ms. Bull ranks at least 200 companies, including the Bank of Montreal, Uber, Walmart and Rogers, as members of the CCAB program Progressive Indigenous Relations, an initiative that helps them increase cultural awareness and advance plans for reconciliation.

Highlight other days?

Others have not yet taken on this work. Ms. Bull believes they act more slowly because they feel overwhelmed and afraid of difficult conversations.

“Some companies don’t even know what the right question is,” she noted. I think we need to go beyond that if we really want to move forward as a country.”

Ms Abotossaway said they could start highlighting other Indigenous days and using them as an opportunity to train their staff.

Among those she proposed were Red Dress Day, which commemorates the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and International Inuit Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day, and Louis Riel Day, which commemorates the life of the deceased Métis leader celebrates.

Efforts shouldn’t stop there, she added. Businesses should consider how their governance structures, hiring policies, talent pools and employee training programs align with Aboriginal needs, she said.

“We’ve seen a lot of learning and development content, but it’s usually just one course and it can only last an hour,” she said. Is it mandatory or not? And how many of your employees or workforce participate?”

Ms Abotossaway and Bull agree that any action taken on National Truth and Reconciliation Day or any other day should involve tribal peoples at every step, even if the action involves the sale of orange clothing.

Ms Bull insisted: “If you want to make an orange shirt, make sure you’re working with an Indigenous artist, make sure it benefits the Orange Shirt Society or an Indigenous organization and you don’t make a profit off the shirt. orange or September 30.”

Tyrone Hodgson

Incurable food practitioner. Tv lover. Award-winning social media maven. Internet guru. Travel aficionado.

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