Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day to mark the contributions that Indigenous peoples make and celebrate the heritage and diverse cultures of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.
We are grateful for their care of the land and resources for a millennia. The traditions, lifestyle, spirituality, and beliefs of the original inhabitants of the land are an enduring reminder that all nations are called to be stewards of the earth.
I am personally grateful to the Curve Lake First Nation for caring for the Lake Buckhorn region and for the excellent fireworks they will have tonight to mark Summer Solstice! Miigwetch!
I am privileged to meet with representatives of Indigenous groups at national construction events, usually in the context of training, apprenticeship, and employment. At the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s biennial meeting last week for example, CLAC found itself on a popular panel that addressed training in remote, traditional lands of First Nations.
CLAC and remote and urban community leaders partner to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities, with gainful employment at the trail end. But we can do more. Development of cultural competency helps (thanks to my friend Danny Deleary of the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario from whom I first hear that term). Understanding the approach to work that makes sense to Indigenous peoples is valuable. At the same time, we bear the employment expectations held by contractors. Sometimes it takes a joint effort of trainers, unions, community leaders, and employers to dissolve disconnects in expectations.
We also need to amplify the good news stories and celebrate the many achievements of our Indigenous workers—any community is best inspired by successful role models with whom they can identify.
We need to pay attention to the resolutions that come from our truth and reconciliation study. Together, we can all learn from each other and honour diverse cultures, overcome systemic barriers, develop sensitivity, and counter stereotyping and racial profiling. It starts with respectful dialogue. As in any situation, one party’s earnest demonstration of their intention to treat the other with respect will earn forgiveness for unintentional missteps along the way.
Partnership with other nations in training and meaningful employment does a world of good for all—it raises income levels, augments self worth, and creates opportunities to build community infrastructure.
Most importantly, it makes our country truly great.