National Indigenous Peoples Day recognized by the NWMO

·4 min read

CANADA – The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) released a statement on National Indigenous People's Day on June 21 in what they call their "reconciliation journey."

“We know that working with Indigenous peoples, learning from Indigenous knowledge and applying learnings to our work are critical to successfully implementing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel,” the release said.

“On National Indigenous Peoples Day, we acknowledge the important contributions Indigenous peoples and teachings have had on the project. And we renew our commitment to reconciliation – working to address historical wrongs and build a better future together with Indigenous peoples.”

Reciprocal Consulting, an independent award-winning and leading Indigenous-run consulting firm, reviewed the NWMO's Reconciliation Policy implementation and found they have made significant progress, according to the press release.

The report from Reciprocal Consulting said, “Since the implementation of the policy, activities have included mandatory staff reconciliation training, relationship building, informal training opportunities, staff support systems, the rollout of the Reconciliation Assessment Tool, and community-driven workplans. This report provides evaluation feedback on the Reconciliation Policy’s relevance, implementation, impacts, outcomes, and lessons learned.”

The release highlighted the part of the report that said, “the NWMO’s commitment to ensuring all employees receive cultural awareness and reconciliation training has helped employees along their own journeys and in ensuring they apply a reconciliation lens to their work. This training continues to evolve and expand with the goal of our employees’ understanding and awareness to grow and develop.”

“I have found that the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy opens up conversations with Indigenous communities,” said Lise Morton, NWMO vice-president of site selection. “It is not just about the organization making this statement. It is about each and every one of us taking those steps together. As a team, if we do not acknowledge the historical wrongs and work towards a better future, we cannot begin to build a solid foundation with Indigenous communities, and our engagement would be disingenuous.”

According to the release, as of June 2021 95 per cent of NWMO staff have completed cultural awareness training, 95 per cent have completed our ReconciliACTION training (or Reconciliation Training Part 1), and 50 per cent have completed Reconciliation Training Part 2. Reconciliation Training Part 3 will be piloted in Fall 2021, as the NWMO’s Indigenous Relations Training Program continues to evolve, as requested by NWMO staff.

“The Reconciliation Policy is critical to the work that myself and my team are doing, not just with Indigenous communities, but also within non-Indigenous communities. It is our hope that our project might strengthen and enhance, in some small way, the relationship between these communities,” Morton said.

The NWMO release highlighted that they acknowledge there is more work to be done.

“One key point was the need to ensure those very communities we are working with are better included in our journey, and another that we did more to ensure our Reconciliation Policy was incorporated across the organization and embedded in our culture,” said the release.

The NWMO knows that reconciliation requires ongoing work and accountability, and their policy seeks to ensure they continually evaluate and readjust.

“But we also know that it is a personal journey for each employee. Our role is to facilitate that personal work that helps our employees incorporate that knowledge into everything they do,” says the release.

“Status quo has not served Indigenous peoples and will not serve them well in the future. If we are acting in a manner that is consistent with the status quo, we will not be successful as an organization. A 100 per cent, we will not be successful. That is our challenge – to change the way we are doing business to prepare for success through reconciliation,” said Bob Watts, vice-president of Indigenous relations and strategic programs at the NWMO.

What is National Indigenous People's Day, and why is it important?

Canada.ca provided the following information:

In 1996, then Governor-General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, announced that June 21 was officially National Aboriginal Day (now National Indigenous Peoples Day) – a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, also known as Indigenous peoples.

In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Canadian government website said, “for generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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