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CCA looking to engage Aboriginal communities with new taskforce

Kelly Lapointe

The Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) business and market development committee has struck a group to look into developing a guide on engaging Aboriginal communities.

“I think all of us in our various areas of construction activity have been asked to deal with set asides, procurement provisions, employment provisions and other related initiatives and attempts that have been crafted by governments with good intentions with the view and objective of trying to engage indigenous peoples in the industry,” said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association during a recent committee meeting.

“The problem with many, if not all of those government-developed policies, is that they lack any real connection to what happens in the real market.”

Canadian public sector entities continue to expand policy and processes to encompass minority groups, such as aboriginal suppliers.

For instance, in tenders for civil construction projects, in British Columbia, preference is given to contractors who hire Aboriginal workers or who engage in joint ventures with Aboriginal companies.

The taskforce will explore creating a best practices guide for how a construction company would strike a business relationship with an aboriginal community.

It would establish benchmark best practices for industry use and advocacy with governments.

Lorenc will head up the taskforce, which will establish the project parameters and budget, and further develop the idea and bring back its recommendations for the committee’s consideration at its June meeting in Victoria.

The idea surfaced in the CCA’s civil infrastructure council meeting at the CCA’s recent 96th annual conference.

It was a referral from the board of director of the Western Canada Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association.

“We don’t have a document as an industry that enables us to engage with the indigenous peoples, nor do we have a document that allows a starting point,” noted Lorenc, adding that it is particularly needed for small and medium sized companies.

The taskforce will focus on the heavy civil sector to begin with because of its immediate need and then the taskforce will learn from that experience and expand the document.

Committee members noted that not all indigenous communities can be painted with the same brush and that care must be taken to not create a one size fits all approach.

It was noted that the taskforce should reach out to companies that already have successful engagement with indigenous communities.

“This is not a want from the perspective of our industry, rather it is a need. There is certainly risk involved if you’re not going to create every perfect document, but it will be a good starting point from which to work,” said Lorenc.

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