“We cannot expect that non-Indigenous HR staff will have all
the answers, nor may they feel comfortable to ask some of these
questions,” said Sault, pointing out that few HR professionals are
likely aware of pertinent cultural details, such as that tradition-al
Haudenosaunee people take 10 days after a funeral and feast to
help the spirit on its journey. She says online training in cultural
proficiency or cultural competency is a good start, and mentions
that Reconciliation Canada is a valuable resource.
Do potential employees find themselves reflected in recruitment
materials? Jamieson recommends seeking guidance from organi-zations
that are already working within Indigenous communities,
like Friendship Centres, to avoid cultural missteps.
“A totem pole is a West Coast thing,” he said as an example,
and so it doesn’t have the same resonance for Indigenous people in
central or eastern Canada. “In some areas, you give tobacco to the
community elders to ask them for something, but that’s not a cer-emonial
approach that’s reflective of all Indigenous communities.”
The image that the company presents must authentically reflect
the corporate culture.
“Say you’re trying to hire an Indigenous lawyer or an accoun-tant,”
said Lendsay. If a candidate asks in the job interview, “How
is your company supporting Indigenous communities?” and the re-cruiter
has no answer, they may potentially lose out on a good hire.
When it comes to best practices for onboarding and mentorship,
says Green, “Ask Indigenous peoples. Ask your Indigenous staff;
reach out to Indigenous organizations and experts. Indigenous peo-ple
are oral people, and that carries more worth than written word.
If you don’t keep your promises, that can have consequences.”
“You’ve got to get buy-in from the CEO all the way down. I also
am a strong advocate of making sure that Indigenous people sit on
the board of directors. That beacon shows that Indigenous people
are at the highest levels of the company,” said Gladu. “The other
thing is setting up a safe work environment for Indigenous people.
Do you have the support services for Indigenous people to be able
to work in a safe place?”
“You have to make sure they’re learning the corporate culture
and getting guidance and support,” said Lendsay. “As companies
become more engaged, they start to look at employee networks.
An Indigenous network is not just for Indigenous people; it’s also
for non-Indigenous people to network within the company.”
He points out that HR departments in some companies “have
incorporated Indigenous elders into their EAP programs. To
me, that type of insight and understanding of a company is go-ing
to improve your retention of Indigenous employees. I know
of non-native people who have access to elders; that’s real inclu-sion
DRAFTING AN INCLUSION POLICY
The anchor for all these initiatives is a comprehensive Indigenous
inclusiveness policy. For HR professionals in the initial stages of
drafting one, “the first step is to read the Truth and Reconciliation
report,” said Jamieson. Some of the specific Calls to Action are not
only to business. Sports and culture are some of the other areas
that could have an impact on a corporate policy.
“The strategy should be collaboratively developed in-house,” said
Sault. “Your best resources are human beings who are Indigenous,
who can be your allies, who can help with a strategy or at least an-swer
some questions for individuals who have a genuine wish to
In reaching out to the local community, it’s good to remember
that – especially in remote areas – Indigenous community spokes-people
may often be called upon to volunteer their time and even
pay their own travel to participate in consultations. Corporations
should remunerate community representatives in an appropriate
manner that reflects the value of their input.
The strategy should ensure that internal policies are regularly
reviewed, says Jamieson, specifically HR policies that may inadver-tently
set up barriers to inclusion, such as recruitment portals that
can only be accessed electronically, since many people in smaller
communities still do not have dependable web access.
“Companies have to be mindful not to enact policies that sim-ulate
Indigenous histories, like colonization of an Indigenous
person’s belief ways or trying to assimilate them into the collec-tive,”
said Green. She offers the example of a corporate culture that
values individuals with a strong drive to move up the corporate
ladder and rewards qualities like outspokenness and competi-tiveness,
but overlooks the quiet individual who seeks to cultivate
their own niche.
“Canada remains a work in progress,” as Trudeau told the UN
General Assembly. So does Canada’s corporate culture, and “for all
the mistakes we’ve made, we remain hopeful,” the Prime Minister
said: “Hopeful that we can do better, and be better, and treat each
other with the dignity and the respect that is the birthright of
every human being.” n
“WE CANNOT EXPECT
HR STAFF WILL HAVE
ALL THE ANSWERS.”
– MICHELLE SAULT
By stscheb / Shutterstock.com
20 ❚ JANUARY 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL