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Partnership and reconciliation

May 24, 2018

Stantec sponsorship strengthens partnerships and reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities

A member of James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Lorisia MacLeod aspires to become a strong female Indigenous leader in her community. To further her relationship-building potential, she started looking into professional development opportunities as she was completing the final year of a master’s program in Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta (U of A).

“As much as I was interested in the U of A’s Indigenous Partnership Development Program (IPDP), there was no way I could afford it,” says Lorisia.

While browsing the course website, she learned that Stantec was sponsoring individuals to attend the program. “The scholarship would decide if I take the course or not,” she adds.

Lorisia is one of this year’s four recipients of the Stantec scholarships, along with Cynthia Jim, Tina Lanceleve, and Nicole Van Kuppeveld, aimed at offsetting the program’s costs and promoting partnerships between communities.

“There are a lot of companies that use truth and reconciliation as buzzwords. Through IPDP scholarships, Stantec puts money where its mouth is,” says Lorisia. “Now when I look at Stantec, I see an organization that is interested in real reconciliation. This is a new standard that I’ll be expecting from organizations,” says Lorisia.

In the program’s three modules, the attendees learn about Indigenous worldviews, explore the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s framework, build skills to collaborate with diverse groups, and develop strategies for establishing long-lasting partnerships all while understanding and recognizing challenges facing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples.

In interacting with other program participants coming from all walks of society, Lorisia learned that leadership has little to do with a job title, and much to do with passion and understanding.

“The program showed me that we all have the power to make a positive change,” says Lorisia.

For Cynthia Jim, Stantec’s IPDP sponsorship opened an opportunity to connect the Indigenous traditions of her ancestors with Western-centric views, and to master the technical language around Canada’s truth and reconciliation efforts.

Hailing from two nations in British Columbia, Stlatlimx (also known as St’at’imc) and Xwewenaqwe (also known as Whonnock), Cynthia is hoping to use the knowledge she acquired to be a role model for her family and preserve her community. “I went back to school to help form a governance system for my people who are currently deemed extinct, according to the 2006 census,” says Cynthia, who is in her final year of the U of A’s Indigenous Governance and Partnership Program. “Right now, my whole community is relying on what I know.”

Putting past tensions between First Nations and European colonizers behind, many Indigenous communities remain leery of building partnerships outside their circles. The course equipped Cynthia with strategies to nurture strong relationships between communities and shape the future of reconciliation.

“I’m definitely going to run for Chief and Councilor in the upcoming elections,” says Cynthia of her ambitions to channel her knowledge and passion towards community.

Tina Lanceleve, Indigenous Business Facilitator with Business Link, applied for the Stantec IPDP scholarship to better understand her own heritage, come to grips with the past, and advance towards reconciliation. She found the program instrumental in addressing the topics that have been previously tabooed.

“Although I’m Indigenous, I didn’t know much about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how it affects me,” says Tina. “I feel I can finally connect the two perspectives and move beyond the invisible barriers of the past.”

Along with personal benefits, the scholarship offered Tina the toolkit to maintain and build stronger relationships with Indigenous business groups to strengthen their growth.

“In the past four years, the Indigenous side of Business Link portfolio has picked up,” says Tina about a rise in Indigenous business initiatives.

Upon completion of the course, Tina is hoping to give back to her company and share Indigenous partnership best practices.

Our relationships with our Indigenous communities enrich our lives, our work, and our country. These powerful relationships inspire us to look and think beyond what we know. They can also lead us to new and creative collaborations. By celebrating these long-term relationships—and supporting the art, education, and culture within these communities—we become better together.

The Indigenous Partnership Development Program is a three-day program designed to help non-Indigenous business and public-sector employees understand and build stronger, more meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities. This program aims to strengthen coalitions within Alberta and beyond by creating a space wherein all parties can hear each other and establish a shared knowledge of history and vision for the future. In its role as a corporate founding donor, Stantec has committed five years’ worth of funding to the program with this year being the fourth.

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