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Opinion: Building Indigenous relations in construction and heavy lifting sectors


December 14, 2020
By Claire Belanger Parker

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Claire Bélanger-Parker, executive director of the Crane Rental Association of Canada. Photo courtesy of CRAC

A few years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) presented its report and along with it, 94 recommendations. How far have we come in creating positive changes in our relationships with Indigenous Nations? What story will our descendants share in the next 150 years?

Everyone would agree that the TRC revealed a dark history, but it does not have to define our future, on the contrary, Canadians and Canadian companies can influence positive changes for the future.

In a past interview, the Honourable Paul Martin summed it up beautifully: “In terms of this idea of guilt we should know our history and our history is not very pretty. I can’t answer for what happened 50 years ago, but if my grandchildren ask me what I did in my life in terms of this issue and there hasn’t been an improvement, then I certainly should feel guilt and I don’t want to and I don’t think any Canadian wants to.”

Earlier this year, the leadership of the Crane Rental Association of Canada (CRAC) answered the call to action and began working toward Indigenous engagement. It started with a conversation that led to a greater understanding of the 630 First Nation communities in Canada. As CRAC-ACLG continues on this journey, it is important to remember that simple actions can produce great results.

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If an organization is ready to embark on a discovery journey, here are some ideas to consider:

  • The Government of Canada and the University of Alberta have excellent online learning tools, free of charge.
  • Signing up for Indigenous newspapers and magazines and having them available in your staff room will create awareness of surrounding communities.
  • Watching APTN to gain a better understanding of the news coverage Indigenous people are watching will give you great insight.
  • Listening to Indigenous radio stations and engaging in the conversation may create new opportunities.
  • Placing advertising in local and national Indigenous media will get you visible.
  • Including Indigenous interesting facts in your internal newsletters will keep your staff informed and interested.
  • Showcasing Indigenous artists by purchasing their works of art and prominently displaying them in their places of business.
  • Creating a bursary or scholarship for Indigenous students that aligns with your business could build your future workforce.
  • Sponsoring Indigenous events or activities will create visibility.
  • Fostering an internal culture that encourages staff and business associates to reach out and become better informed about the Indigenous community.
  • Learning more about the environmental needs of Indigenous communities and supporting them.
  • Supporting initiatives that support the well-being of Indigenous youth, Elders and other community members.
  • Reaching out to a nearby First Nations or Métis Community to organize a virtual luncheon conversation can still provide great learning opportunities during the pandemic.

Call to action no. 92 is dedicated to the corporate sector, a call that hundreds of corporations are embracing and slowly transforming their corporate culture. We have a lot to gain by fostering better relationships with Indigenous communities and when things get difficult, like any other interactions, it is much easier to mend the fence when you have established a respectful relationship.

The Crane Rental Association of Canada will continue to encourage its members to learn more about Indigenous partnerships, invite Indigenous crane rentals companies and suppliers to connect.

Claire Bélanger-Parker
Executive Director Crane Rental Association of Canada