Partnering with Indigenous communities and organizations is essential for a better Canadian future, says Steeve Fiset, chief strategy officer with consulting engineering firm CIMA+.
“We are very proud at CIMA+ to be one of the first engineering consulting firms in Canada, to my knowledge, to present a reconciliation action plan to help create a better future,” Fiset said during an interview on Nov. 1.
CIMA+ recently announced a five-year partnership with Indspire, an Indigenous national charity that supports Indigenous, Inuit and Métis education.
CIMA+ is donating $25,000 to Indspire.
Fiset said their donation will be matched by the federal government for a total of $50,000.
The donation is part of a corporate reconciliation action plan which CIMA+ has built around the 92nd call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada.
The 92nd action calls upon corporate Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as part of their core policies and operational activities.
Fiset said working with Indspire was an easy choice as he is a believer in the power of education.
“I think (education) is key. Long-term benefits can only be achieved through education and access to better education,” he said.
“This opens a lot of opportunity for better employment, better solutions. We are in the business of providing more sustainable solutions and it starts with education.”
He said CIMA+ was also drawn to Indspire due to its national outreach which aligns with the firm’s national operations.
“Specifically, in regard to making a difference, we thought education would be something that would benefit communities as well as the industry.”
Education isn’t a one-way street for Fiset and CIMA+. The company has worked extensively with Indigenous communities in the past and the learning goes both ways.
“We have learned a lot by working with Indigenous communities because they share with us their wisdom, their (way of looking at) different things and when we think about sustainable development, that is key,” said Fiset.
This philosophy grew during CIMA+’s working relationship with the Whapmagoostui First Nation in northern Quebec, where the engineering firm helped the community plan its infrastructure around a changing climate and wet summers.
“We don’t want to just do business with Indigenous communities, we want to work with them,” he said.
Fiset said working with knowledgeable community members was essential for creating a strong infrastructure plan.
CIMA+ is trying to take the collaborative spirit to the next level.
Indigenous people “can be involved in the project and not just benefit from the infrastructure but actually train them and develop their skills,” said Fiset.
Fiset said members of the Whapmagoostui community were employed in supervision and construction roles instead of solely relying on labour brought in from the south of the province.
Fiset hopes the expertise shared on both sides can benefit more Indigenous communities as experienced members of the Whapmagoostui can aid in the development of similar plans with other First Nations.
“That’s one way that we see that we can actually have a better economic engagement with First Nations,” he said.
CIMA+ developed their reconciliation action plan with the help of Creative Fire, an Indigenous owned consulting firm that seeks to help bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous communities and businesses.
The plan was created with five-pillars.
“Governance, action around people, employment and education, community relationship and partnership, economic engagement and the sustainability aspect,” said Fiset.
Pushing forward truth and reconciliation in the corporate sphere is integral to the firm’s identity, he adds.
“It’s really linked to our values. This is how we want to (operate).”
While proud that CIMA+ is one of the first firms of its size to make reconciliation a core corporate policy, Fiset wants other industry players to embrace the 92nd call to action.
“We’re happy to be amongst the leaders but we don’t want to be the only one,” he said.
“I would invite all my colleagues from corporate Canada to embrace this.”
For more information about the charity visit https://indspire.ca/.
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