Indigenous Engagement Charter to provide Indigenous business opportunities
- NC Raine | January 24, 2020
The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce (SCC) is looking to champion one of Saskatchewan’s biggest economic opportunities – Indigenous business engagement.
The Chamber has launched the Indigenous Engagement Charter. The charter will provide business with tools to achieve engagement and assist the business community in the role it must play in reconciliation.
“We have under-utilized the opportunity of our Indigenous population in terms of skills, work readiness, and entrepreneurial activity. We have not brought that opportunity together with the individuals, companies, and communities. It’s well over time that we’ve done it,” said Steve McLellan, CEO of the SCC.
McLellan said training across the province is job number one. From there, the goal is to have businesses create their own plans that will include internal staff training, procurement with Indigenous business, as well as attracting, hiring, and retaining Indigenous workers.
“Companies, by signing on to the charter, will commit that they are moving their company forward in all these areas in a staged and strategic way,” said McLellan.
“It’s going to mean more companies are Indigenous ready... The biggest benefit will be to those non-Indigenous people who will learn more and engage more. We’ll be better companies, better employers, better individuals, and better Canadians because of it.”
A task force to create the charter was organized after a 2011 report by University of Saskatchewan Professor Eric Howe, who wrote that bridging the Indigenous education and economic gap is a $90 billion opportunity.
McLellan said the charter may also help on-reserve Indigenous business and individuals.
“There are people with great skills who live in First Nations that are remote or northern. Companies need to start saying, ‘Is there any reason we couldn’t have one of our tech people on a First Nation and dialling-in from there?'” he said. “We want to make sure that we do things smarter and do not limit opportunities just because someone lives on a First Nation.”
Milton Tootoosis, Chair of the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network (SFNEDN), said that the charter may provide Indigenous business with increased opportunity to develop and network.
“A charter represents structure, formality, organization, and a commitment to Indigenous business,” said Tootoosis. He hopes that in the mid-to-long term more First Nations will become members of their local chambers of commerce.
“The vast majority are not members of their local chamber. If they’re not linked into their networks, they could be at a disadvantage because they don't have that information they require to make more strategic business decisions,” he said.
“This will hopefully encourage them to network, collaborate, and get information. It will build relationships and trust, so this is a good thing.”
The following investors have supported the Indigenous Engagement Charter and made this initiative possible: Nutrien, Finning, Graham Group Ltd., SaskPower, CIBC, Workers’ Compensation Board of Saskatchewan, RBC, Meridian Surveys Ltd., Farm Credit Canada, Scotiabank, PCL Construction Ltd., and Cameco.
The SCC launched its Indigenous Engagement Charter in Regina on January 21 and in Saskatoon on January 22.