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CCA’s indigenous guide opens doors to effective engagement

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by Lindsey Cole

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has endorsed the launch of an Indigenous Engagement Guide with the hope of creating a pathway for those in the construction industry looking to communicate more effectively with indigenous companies and communities across Canada.
CCA’s indigenous guide opens doors to effective engagement

A draft version of the guide, which was two years in the making, was unveiled recently during the CCA's fall board meeting in Fort McMurray, Alta.

"This isn't an opportunity and will never be an opportunity where there is one size that fits all," said Chris Lorenc, a CCA board member who was also the indigenous guide project management committee co-chair along with Victoria LaBillois. "The objective here was to provide an easy-to-read national review that speaks to an introduction — that is a door opener that provides a pathway to engagement success."

Lorenc, who is also president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, told members of the business and market development committee he took away five "Ps" from the guide that can be applied to companies of all sizes when engaging with indigenous communities: presence, persistence, patience, partnership and profit.

"You need to ensure that your presence is persistent and patient because this is a long-term investment," he explained. "It is only with presence, persistence and patience that you can establish a partnership with the community."

He said the outcome of those "Ps" is profit, which can have many meanings, such as additional education and training for those in the community, enhancing the capacity of companies that function in and around that community, the project that is being discussed itself and job creation. The CCA commissioned the guide at a cost of $80,000. It was researched and written by Indigenous Works (formerly the Aboriginal Human Resource Council), an organization that helps companies increase indigenous workplace performance as well as build relationships with indigenous people, businesses and communities. The guide provides general information, guidance and insights into indigenous engagement strategies and defines engagement in several ways:

• with indigenous people — for recruitment or employment;

• with indigenous business — for partnerships, procurement or allies; and

• with indigenous communities — for investments, partnerships or other reasons.

"This is first of all a great team effort," said Kelly Lendsay, president and CEO of Indigenous Works.

"We said the goal has to be we have to produce a guide that would be a value to the industry. It has to have utility. Let's not be afraid of the good, the bad and the ugly."

He said the purpose wasn't to "produce an academic journal."

Lendsay highlighted an extensive process to create the guide that involved volunteers who took part in the project management committee, the national advisory committee, industry focus groups and other stakeholder consultations.

"In our culture storytelling is important. It's a way to impart knowledge, wisdom," he said, adding a component of the guide features sections called "Talking Stick Tips," named after a traditional communication tool. "We used the talking stick as symbolism."

The guide notes talking sticks are a means of "orderly, just and impartial listening. They give everyone a voice."

Craig Hall, chief operating officer at Indigenous Works, said the guide is really made up of two sections.

The first component is about "knowing and understanding," and is meant to educate owners and managers about what they need to know when it comes to engaging and building relationships with indigenous communities.

"I think if you were to read it, it would give a really good grounding of some of the key areas of indigenous issues," he states. "I am hoping it will wet the appetite of those who read it."

The second section provides more of a how-to guide and is entitled Indigenous Engagements and Relationship Building.

According to the guide, if a company is considering "deeper relationships with indigenous businesses," there are several key questions to keep in mind:

• Do you and your company have the knowledge to work successfully with indigenous people, businesses and communities?

• Is your workplace ready to hire and support indigenous employees?

• Do you know who to approach in indigenous communities?

• Do you know how to approach indigenous leadership?

• What are the trends in indigenous business or employment that matter to you as a construction owner and businessperson?

"What do leaders and what do organizations need to do in order to build these engagements," Hall said was a key factor behind the guide's creation. "I think it's quite effective in terms of mapping out how you need to prepare yourself and how you need to prepare your organization. Whether you're a small or a big business you have the same basic questions. You still go through the same sorts of patterns in terms of trying to build competencies."

The guide will be released on the "members only" section of the CCA website where it can be downloaded. A more ceremonial and formal launch may take place at a later date, the committee noted.

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