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June 27 2024

Post Event | National Indigenous Peoples Day Engagement Forum

On June 26, the Calgary Chamber hosted an insightful Engagement Forum honouring National Indigenous Peoples Day. The event, sponsored by Pathways Alliance, opened an important dialogue on truth, economic reconciliation and tangible ways businesses and individuals can be an ally and incorporate the practice of reconciliation in the workplace.

Anne Harding, owner of Forum Community Relations and Chamber Board Member, moderated the panel discussion with Tim Fox, Natoyi’sokasiima, Vice President, Indigenous Relations and Equity Strategy at Calgary Foundation and Shawna Morning Bull, Ikannaisapiistikomi, Manager, Business Development at Community Futures Treaty Seven.

In discussing truth, reconciliation, the business community and the practice of economic reconciliation, the panelists emphasized that we are still working through and uncovering the truth, and that we cannot move forward with the actions of reconciliation in a truly meaningful way until the truth has been accepted and learned. Both panelists spoke to the value of relationship building with Indigenous peoples, nations and communities as a key part of Indigenous relations. It was shared that moving away from transactional and colonial relationships will allow businesses, organizations and governments to form meaningful and valuable relationships with Indigenous communities to further the work of reconciliation. To form these relationships, the truth of our shared history must be understood. Both panelists reiterated that developing a fulsome sense of the shared history that settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples hold is central to developing long lasting relationships. Tim Fox also made the point that the colonial history shared between settlers and Indigenous people is distinct from the long and storied history of Indigenous Peoples prior to settler contact.

A key theme of the discussion was the long timeframe that the process of reconciliation will require. Both panelists spoke to the fact that fighting systemic oppression is a generational issue, and that work has been on going, but there is so much more to do. It takes time to breakdown years of developed conscious and unconscious bias, this is true of personal relationships, business relationships and governmental systems. It was said that the current engagement with Indigenous people is good, but it is also important to recognize that it is a relatively recent practice for Indigenous people to be meaningfully consulted in government and across the private sector.

The panelists closed the discussion by outlining the importance of systems change and being intentional when working towards reconciliation. Paradigm shifts take time, but more importantly they take conscious effort. It’s already happening with the youth of Canada but incorporating these practices into the business community will take time and effort from leaders across the country. Panelists concluded by stating that there is no specific prescription for what every business must do to work towards truth and reconciliation, but ensuring the work is done with intention and continued engagement with Indigenous peoples and communities will be central to making real-world steps along the path to reconciliation.

A special thanks to our presenting sponsor, Pathways Alliance, without whom this event would not have been possible.