Corporation to facilitate reconciliation

Creating a national professional standard a noble goal

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Many readers are now well versed in the social and emotional damage residential schools caused for Indigenous people in Canada. Apologies have been made, the largest class-action suit in Canadian history settled and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has documented thousands of personal stories.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/10/2018 (1450 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Many readers are now well versed in the social and emotional damage residential schools caused for Indigenous people in Canada. Apologies have been made, the largest class-action suit in Canadian history settled and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has documented thousands of personal stories.

Part of the mandate of the commission was to guide Canadians toward reconciliation and renewed relationships with Indigenous communities based on mutual understanding and respect. The final 500-page report presented 94 “calls to action” urging all levels of government and corporations to work together to change policies.

While a number of action items relate to social welfare, justice, education, language and culture, there is also a call to corporate Canada to develop a reconciliation framework that would meet the requirements of the TRC’s call to action No. 92.

This framework would include meaningful consultation with communities and representatives, especially when engaging in economic development, building respectful relationships, ensuring equitable training and job access and providing cultural competency training for all employees.

While the Truth and Reconciliation report was made public in December 2015, recommending and developing any assessment processes to keep the corporate “feet to the fire” was not part of its mandate. So now, after three years, the question today is, what is the status of reconciliation in our corporations? And, where is the compliance mechanism?

Well, there isn’t one. And without some sort of compliance and certification system, the issue of reconciliation will simply remain an intellectual discussion with little to no progress in the area of implementation.

That’s where Ron Evans, former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and former chief of Norway House, comes in. Evans is literally starting a “movement” to help corporations become compliant with his call to action on item No. 92, business and reconciliation, as stated in the Truth and Reconciliation report.

The goal of Ron’s new corporation, R.G. Evans Indigenous Solutions, is to help corporations successfully engage with Indigenous communities to build economic prosperity for all concerned. In order to do this, Evans has established a set of criteria to be met by corporations that will certify them as reconciliation compliant.

This checklist of compliance items, as well as audit policies and procedures, will be accompanied by training on TRC call to action No. 92, as well as Indigenous history, treaties, Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, Indigenous-Crown relations, intercultural competencies, human rights, anti-racism, conflict resolution and general capacity building.

In addition, consulting services will be available for the ongoing alignment of business relationships. Corporations that have been through the training and audit process will receive recognition through national certification.

Not only will this new movement toward reconciliation-compliant certification assist corporations to develop and foster new relationships with Indigenous communities, R.G. Evans Indigenous Solutions will be creating several of its own employment opportunities. These will include roles for cultural trainers, program development specialists, survey specialists, accredited compliance auditors, consultants and financial professionals. Over time, certification will enable different industry sectors to compare themselves to best practices across Canada.

Evans’ idea is very much in line with the growth of the now well-known LEAN and ISO manufacturing movement, the Canadian hospital accreditation process and the various rating and assessment systems for LEED certification in the building construction industry. Reconciliation compliance in today’s world is simply the way to go.

As a business leader, you might be asking why you would want to become engaged in another professional certification program. The answer is simple. Achieving reconciliation-compliant certification signals that your corporation is prepared to adopt and implement best practices for the development of strong business relationships with Indigenous Peoples and their communities.

One of the keys to success in working with Indigenous communities is trust. Certification helps to communicate and build this important element of a relationship. Certification helps to build an internal organizational culture that creates clear expectations for employees, as well as specific objectives and tools to do the job. This, too, helps to build customer trust and helps employees focus on what is important both inside the corporation and out in the world of the customer.

Creating, implementing and building a new professional standard, and one with a goal of being a national standard, will not be easy. However, I am convinced this is the right way to go. Otherwise, the Truth and Reconciliation report will simply sit on someone’s shelf and memories will soon fade. In that case, we will continue to do business the way it has always been done, an entire customer segment will be ignored and potential economic benefits for everyone lost.

What we are talking about here is organizational culture change, and this takes a minimum of three years within an organization and much longer within the larger social and economic milieu. It will take the will of corporate boards and senior executives to see the potential in this new standard, and to develop a framework for implementation.

Yet, at the same time, I can see reconciliation-compliance certification as an exciting venture that may even lead to new professional designations, especially in the area of cultural-competency training and compliance auditing. It could lead to new university and college business programs and specialized designations in the area of human resource management and training. Finally, it will lead to corporations striving to achieve the designation because of the high-profile acknowledgment they will receive for their best practices.

Interestingly enough, I can envision corporate leaders of the future looking back and asking why this designation and process was even necessary in the first place, because it is simply the natural and right thing to do.

As president of R.G. Evans Indigenous Solutions, Evans is determined to bring reconciliation into the lifeblood of every corporation. As a human resource professional and business person, I feel his idea for a corporate professional designation is sound. And, as someone who has pushed for professional designation within my own human resource profession, I look forward to seeing and hearing about his success.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCPHR, CMC, CCP, M.Ed., is president of Legacy Bowes Group, the author of eight books, a radio personality, speaker, an executive coach and workshop leader. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

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