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Looking Back to Go Forward with Indigenous Communities

Sustainability Leaders June 15, 2021
Sustainability Leaders June 15, 2021


Guest host Kona Goulet, Head, Indigenous Equity and Inclusion, BMO and Cree-Métis originally from La Ronge in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada, speaks to Dr. Bob Kayseas, Interim President and Vice President Academic of First Nations University of Canada, who specializes in Indigenous Business and Public Administration. As we reflect on the tragic discovery of the remains of an estimated 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, join us in this conversation about  the legacy and impact of the Indian Residential School system, Indigenous history, and the important role of education in the road to reconciliation.

In this episode:

  • On the impact of the tragic Kamloops discovery on Indigenous communities across Canada.

  •  On personal experiences with the residential school system and intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities.

  • On the impact of the Kamloops discovery on the process of reconciliation and the importance of education.

  • On how First Nations University of Canada provides a unique venue to connect with Indigenous Elders and their culture and traditions while completing post-secondary education.

  • On stereotypes and why all Canadians should understand the Indigenous journey of the past 150 years.

  • On the Nisitohtamowin eLearning initiative, a partnership between First Nations University of Canada, BMO and Reconciliation Education

  • On where we are in Canada’s journey to reconciliation.


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Dr. Bob Kayseas:

Our worldview is built on a foundation of relationships. It's relationships with one another, it's relationships with myself, it's relationships with the land, and with nature, and the creator. Those relationships are so important. So when I think about reconciliation, I think about how can we mend these relationships? I think that finding unmarked graves to that magnitude outside of a residential school of little children, is something that really hit home for many, many people. Many of our own people, and certainly other Canadians. The tragic discovery has really opened the eyes of many people in Canadian society to the events that likely occurred and did occur at those institutions.

Michael Torrance:

Welcome to Sustainability Leaders. I'm Michael Torrance, chief sustainability officer with BMO Financial Group. On the show, we will talk with leading sustainability practitioners from the corporate, investor, academic, and NGO communities to explore how this rapidly evolving field of sustainability is impacting global investment, business practices, and our world.

Disclosure:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates, or subsidiaries.

Kona Goulet:

[Cree language] My name is Kona Goulet. I am Cree Métis, originally from La Ronge in Northern Saskatchewan. I now live in Toronto where I work at BMO Financial Group as the Head, Indigenous Equity and Inclusion. Today, I'm honored to be speaking with Dr. Bob Kayseas, Interim President and Vice President Academic of First Nations University of Canada, who specializes in indigenous business and public administration. For our audience, this interview was originally recorded with a focus on the importance of education to reconciliation and why businesses and universities like First Nations University of Canada play an important role in that process.

Kona Goulet:

Following the tragic discovery of the remains of an estimated 215 indigenous children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, BC, we agreed with Dr. Kayseas to reframe the conversation, to focus first on the Indian residential school system in Canada and its impacts and importance to indigenous history. We then returned to a broader conversation around driving reconciliation through education. Dr. Kayseas, [inaudible] thank you for joining us again to supplement our earlier interview and to address the tragic news of the children found in Kamloops. Can you share with us the impact of this news on you personally, and on First Nations University of Canada?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

[inaudible] Kona, thank you for that. The news that came out of Kamloops recently has impacted us here in our own smaller community at the university and all the various communities that we're attached to, but it's also impacted people right across the country. The news is tragic. And one of the biggest issues that we've been discussing, not only here within the university, but even in my community, in our communities, is that the tragic stories that exist about residential schools, we've all lived them and known them for many, many years. Our old people have talked about the challenges that they've had. I've been in conversation with a number of different people about the challenges that they experienced. One of the issues with that is that for many years, there was not as much of interest or a belief about what really happened.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

I think there is an understanding that these places existed, they're government funded and sanctioned, and they were operated primarily by churches. I think it was hard to believe that some of the things that were described to occur by TRC and various other publications, researchers, community members, survivors have been talking about these things for many years. I think that finding unmarked graves to that magnitude outside of residential school of little children, is something that really hit home for many, many people. Many of our own people, and certainly other Canadians. I've had people reach out to me. A doctor from Calgary, president of a university, various other people saying like, "Hey, what can we do? This is tragic." There was actually an eye-opening there. I heard about residential school, but I didn't realize that the tragic discovery has really opened the eyes of many people in Canadian society to the events that likely occurred and did occur at those institutions.

Kona Goulet:

Your home community had two nearby residential schools. How did these schools impact you, your family, and community?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

Unfortunately, the challenges that existed in many of our communities because residential school are still really, really tangible today. There's intergenerational trauma that still exists, not only the trauma, but also the effects of taking kids from their home and actually raising them in situations that did not allow for any understanding of how to be a good parent, how to go back and be productive. There was too much challenges in those schools. They're forced to work there. The instruction wasn't about trying to be a good person. It was about trying not to be an Indian, right? So many, many of our people came back to our communities without the parenting skills and the life skills that should have evolved with them as they grew with their family, that did not occur. So we had many of us, me included.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

We had the upbringing that didn't include a whole lot of the necessary activities, necessary experiences that children should have if they want to be able to take advantage of opportunities for work and employment and productive members of society, we weren't given those opportunities. Many of our people suffer from addiction. When you add addiction to the welfare state that the Canadian government created, and the lack of ability to go and sell your goods because of the Indian act, the lack of ability to move off the reserve because of the past system, all these things contributed to communities with many, many challenges that still exist today.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

So the impacts are long and far reaching, right? You see the amount of people that are in prison, that are indigenous. You see the amount of children in care that are indigenous or relative to the Canadian population. You see all those social inequities that continue to exist. The challenges with the levels of income, the levels of employment, the impacts today in my community and others across the country are still very, very, very significant.

Kona Goulet:

Can you say a little bit more about the significance of this tragedy and what it means for what we know about residential school history?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

For us, our communities, our people, we are an oral tradition. We've heard stories all our lives about things that happen, about children that went to school and didn't come home, and people were wondering, where are they? And families of kids coming back to the community expecting to see their friend or family member back home. And they aren't there. And there was those types of challenges have existed. Those experiences, those stories have existed in our communities for many, many, many years. And really right now what's happening is that this acknowledgement is finding, is now leading to an acknowledgement that the depth of the approaches that were taken to our kids, the depth of harm that was inflicted on our kids was ultimate, was death.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

And they weren't treated respectfully in a way that there's unmarked grave, just not too far from here at a residential school, that's about an hour out of Regina. And the marking on that grave says residential school children, no name. It was just like so, they didn't even put a name. There is no acknowledgement that this was a little human being that came from a family, that had siblings that had... The lack of respect accorded to these children, where it was just an extension of what happened to them in life, in those schools. And that's the challenge, like we've had these stories for so many years, we've been trying to tell society, hey, this is the real reality. This is what our elders are saying. This is what... My own wife spent six years in a residential school and the stories that are told by our people, are really, really quite challenging to hear and to listen and know what's going on.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

Residential schools are coming to the forefront again because of this strategy. And there's many more here in Regina. Regina Industrial School has 38 unmarked graves that are right on the outskirts of Regina. Right? And I drove my two grandchildren out there, five minutes from my home, and they were shocked and amazed that that was so close to us. And there is no markings there. There's no indication that there is children from residential schools that died there. So the residential schools was one element of a system that was trying to eradicate Indians. And the challenges that continue to exist today, we still have so many people that are dealing with addiction, dealing with all the various issues. And we need to find ways to support them by acknowledging what happened to them. Right?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

So, instead of judging them for being an addict, we need to be able to say, how do we help you? And we need more than just an apology from churches. There's a residential school survivor that was angry because he made a comment about an apology. What about the cost of me suffering from all these various things for 52 years of my life, addiction, divorce, even diabetes, right? So all of these various things, what about recognition for that in some way, versus just I'm sorry from the church who was refusing to give that. So it's a challenge. It's a really, really big issue today. And it's going to be for a long time, there's going to be more discoveries. There is many stories that read across the country of these situations occurring in those schools, and there was many schools across the country.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

An elder that was speaking just a few days ago was talking about the loss. And we're having a ceremony here today, right now, today, a pipe in a feast for an honor and acknowledgement of the zoo. It's part of our culture when people die to have a feast. One of the elders was talking about how all those kids imagine, if they're able to flourish and raise families, some of them could be here with us as now. They're sharing stories right now. That's 215 kids in Kamloops, and you multiply that by all the kids that didn't make it. And all the families that they could have had, that's a very, very, very significant impact to Canada and to our indigenous people and families across the country.

Kona Goulet:

How do you think the event of the Kamloops discovery will impact the reconciliation process?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

Hopefully, the lives of those little kids are going to mean something now. They were demeaned and disrespected, and I don't even want to know what happened to them, why they died and then they were put away. And what the perpetrators of the strategy hoped was that they would be forever forgotten. I think that, and I'm hoping that their discovery now gives more meaning and purpose to their lost lives, and it can open eyes and open support and acknowledgement for what happened and trying to find ways to repair what happened. Right? And there's many, many, many ways, when you see the situation in Quebec, with the woman who died in the hospital bed, and what the nurses were saying to her, that's not right.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

And that's what I mean about judgment, instead of sitting there and judging this woman for her circumstances, you need to be able to have the love and caring for all of us as human beings, one another as human beings and try and find ways to support and lift one another up, not hold people in judgment of situations that they live in existence because of the governments interactions with us for so many years, the government's injustices for so many years, and here we are today, right? So when people say, you guys need to get over it, well, we're not, because it's still not over. Colonization is still here and it's real and it's happening to us every day. Until we actually can live with equity, live with equality, and live with mutual respect, then I don't think that we will get to a place where we can say, hey we've kind of reconciled.

Kona Goulet:

Honorable Murray Sinclair, who was the previous chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which heard the testimonials of thousands of residential school survivors, issued a statement following the Kamloops news. He indicated this discovery confirmed what survivors have always said and pointed to the unfinished work of the commission to properly document the deaths and burials of all the children who did not come home. And you spoke about that earlier, right, in Regina. Can you say more about the importance of survivors' stories and your view on the importance of this unfinished work?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

There's a process of healing that many of us who are survivors have never been able to reach. The lack of respect and acknowledgement of the truth of their stories, there's always been many questions about it. In many ways they weren't heard, right? And when you're talking about, well, I thought that my cousin went home and they're not there and he's probably killed or something like that. And people didn't believe it. And there's many, many aspects of stories that people did not want to believe. And now it's actually easier to believe when you hear about the weepings the beatings, the abuse that occurred, that survivors have told their stories about, those things are now more believable because you see the death of these kids, so many, and you're going to see so many more.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

So to me, I think that it's really, really important that we continue to work with survivors and continue to ask how we can actually help them get to a place of healing, help them get to a place of where they find acceptance, and where they can actually help others. And many of them do, many of our survivors are actively involved in social work and education and they're telling their stories. And I think that part of the challenge that we have now from where we are today is to find ways that continue to work. Let's go to every school and find out if there is more kids there, and let's try and find ways to actually bring the kids home, that they were not given that opportunity.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

We need to find ways to repair what's been done to all of these kids. You imagine yourself and your family and you send a kid off to school, and they never come back. And you don't know where they've been buried. You don't know where they are. There has never been a ceremony to actually acknowledge their death. And so there's a lot of need for closure in many families, many communities because of those situations. So I think we need to continue to do that work, and it needs to be supported by society, by government, by all of us to try and pursue another level of closure that's still not achieved.

Kona Goulet:

In our original interview, we spoke about the importance of education for all Canadians. Is there anything you would add to that now in light of recent events?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

I think that education is the doorway to greater understanding. It's a doorway to creating greater relationships. And people really need to pursue education. Non-indigenous Canadians need to find ways to actually get more understanding of this. I've been talking to people who are in their '50s, who are in their '40s, who said, well, we heard about it, but no one knew nothing about it. So if that still exists, if that lack of understanding and that lack of education still exists in many people across the country, I think that there needs to be more push for greater understanding. There's lots of new commerce to Canada. What kind of opportunities are we giving them to understand what Canada really is? The history of Canada and why the situation is the way it is in Canada, right?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

So I think that education is needed. Education is going to be that pathway, that doorway. It's so critical and so important that people start trying to gain a better understanding so that these relationships can be created. So that reconciliation might have a stronger glimmer of hope, right? So it's a big task. It's a formidable task. And especially in the context of, when you see what's going on in the country and the world, you see the challenges that continue to exist when racism rears its ugly head, and it does it in such violent ways that it impacts, it creates more trauma for so many people. And many, many people who are like that, many people alive who harbored these feelings, if they actually understood more, if they had better understanding, if they educated themselves, maybe they wouldn't be doing the kinds of atrocities that are continuing to occur, and not only in our country, but all over the world.

Kona Goulet:

Returning to our original interview, Dr. Kayseas has discussed the role of education as a tool for reconciliation today. Why don't you start by telling us a little about your role at First Nations University of Canada and the career trajectory that brought you there?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

[foreign language 00:19:02] Sure. I just want to say thank you, Kona, for that introduction and thank you for the opportunity to have this discussion. I always like to try and create some understanding between us and all other Canadians, whoever they may be. So it's important to continue to have these ongoing dialogues. Thank you for the opportunity. So like you said, in the introduction, I'm the interim president and vice-president academic at the First Nations University. I started working here more than 20 years ago. When I was in my undergraduate degree in a business school, I was asked and said, why don't you come try work for the university. I came back to university as an adult. Like many other indigenous people didn't finish high school, then went a little ways, I was working and so the trajectory, isn't your traditional mainstream society trajectory for post-secondary education.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

Certainly, I came back as an adult and started working at the business school after I got the MBA. And I've enjoyed this place so much for all these years, it's provides the opportunity. It changed my life and it changes the life of so many people. You come here and you get to be with elders, be with your colleagues, your peers, from other first nations communities, from urban first nations communities. And you get to share in this learning journey. So much of what I learned as an adult about my own history, my own people was something I was not aware of. I knew residential schools directly, but I didn't know about the history of them. I grew up in a first nation community that had two of the busiest residential schools in Canada within 45 miles of us. So we had a very direct impact of residential schools.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

So my experience at this university, it was life-changing. And I continue every day to be honored and blessed by able to impact students and their efforts to change their lives. So I took on the role of VP academic in 2017. In addition, in 2019, I took on the role of interim president. So I've been here like I said, this is my 21st year and me and leadership, I'm hoping that I can go back to just being one of the most senior jobs in this institution pretty soon. But my role here is just support students. My role is to be of service so that our students can actually get the education they need, that's going to change their families. I've seen so much positive. One of my recent graduate in the social work program, I seen her when she was here, when she was in her first year, struggled with addiction, had lots of family issues.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

I seen her recently and she was almost in tears. She was happy. She's got a job with the provincial government. She's making 38 bucks an hour. She's got a home. She's taking care of her kids again, like it's actually so important, and seeing the glow and the self-reliance and the independence in these people, it's an amazing job to have.

Kona Goulet:

Well, congratulations on 21 years at the university. Let's talk a little about your research interests and their significance, indigenous entrepreneurship, strategic alliances, and indigenous economic development. Can you speak a little more about these topics and whether any of these stand out as more fundamental or important than the others?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

So university, I pursued business simply because I've always looked at our communities and our people as being an area of just significant potential. I've known people who... and from our communities are just so intelligent. They're very, very hardworking, but they just didn't... They lack the opportunities. They lack the capital. They lack the financial resources. They lack the business acumen to really take off. When I decided that I was going to actually focus on these areas of opportunity and these are all focused, like the strategic alliances are all about entrepreneurship. It's all about generating value from partnerships that are going to contribute to the betterment of our communities.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

Entrepreneurship, when you look at our entrepreneurs within our first nations communities, and even outside of them, there's some fundamental challenges that exist that do not exist elsewhere. The system that we have in our community is very, very different, and it's the legislative system, the Indian act. It's the social system outside of our communities, the economic system within our communities, within the lack of resources that are there. So to me, that whole environment was such an interesting area for me to really dig into and understand and try find ways to get out of that.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

And as a business prof, I pursued lots of that understanding. I was in communities across the country, trying to get a better understanding of what it means, what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur within our communities, what it means and takes to be a successful development corporation bringing value back to our First Nations communities. When I moved into senior management, I moved with the thinking that I'm going to impact students directly and people individually versus broader communities. So still the same type of perspective, the same type of approach, but certainly a slightly different path.

Kona Goulet:

Thank you for that. Building on what you're talking about, which is overcoming the barriers that exist, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented not only the impact of Indian residential school survivors, but published 94 calls to action for all Canadians in all sectors across Canada. And I want to take a moment to talk about the significance of call to action focused on education under number 92. What does that mean to you and what should it mean to business?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

There's a whole lot of research I went into the work of the commission and many other commissions. Other commissions have done some of this type of work, RCAP is a good example. One of the things that research has discovered is that there is a significant, and it's not only the research, it's our lives we live it. There's a big difference between how indigenous people's lives are in terms of income, in terms of employability, in terms of the quality of life, just because of housing and the infrastructure that's available. There's a big gap and there's a big deference there. So to me, when you look at education as being a pursuit that everybody should understand one another better at all, to get this education to have a respectful relationship. I think it's so, so important. I was working on a project for a community not too long ago, and we looked at the numbers, the 2016 average income per household was $11,000 compared to the average in Saskatchewan which was $48,000.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

And the reason why they're doing this is because they're trying to get some work from one of the biggest mining companies in the world that is 40 miles from them. And you see the wealth that exists compared to the challenges that exists right down the road within these indigenous communities. So to me, the avenue and the path for two things, the avenue and the path for prosperity, for greater wellbeing for us as indigenous people, is through education. The path to reconciliation, the path to a respectful relationship where we can all coexist, and support one another, and lift one another up, and care for one another is to reconciliation. People need to understand where we come from. So you look at the history and the path that many of our people have taken, it's such a challenge for many people to dig their way out of a past that involve childhood traumas, abuse, all kinds of different abuse and all kinds of discrimination, all kinds of racism, and they didn't pursue the education.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

We should actually hold them up and say, how can I help you? How can I understand you? That's why to me, when I look at the challenges that exist in Canada, some of the challenges that continue to exist in respect to the relationship that indigenous Canadians have with native society. We have that in Quebec right now, there is the inquiry into the death of the Quebec woman. Those types of issues exist all across the country. We can see them as new stories all across the country. Some of the challenges that Thunder Bay have had, it's sad and I think that one reason why that is, it's because of the lack of understanding. It's the lack of really good knowledge and understanding about the situation that led us to where we are today. Right? We've heard indigenous Canadians have suffered through 150 years of direct assault on our culture, on our livelihood, on our wellbeing, on our self identity. We are still just digging our way out of that.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

And today the challenge is that the growth I see in people and the growth I seen in our communities, developing corporations, First Nations developing corporations are multi-billion dollar businesses in Canada. I see so many people who are young people coming directly from high school directly into university and they've never had to deal with the trauma that us adults have had. So they're coming here with pride, they're standing tall, they're standing strong and they're going to be a force. And they are a force already in many different industries, indigenous people are not going away. And what I hope to see is that the relationship is mended across all industries, across all areas of our society, so that we can actually coexist and support and work together versus having a conflict tool approach where you say, why are you getting this tax benefit?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

Why are you getting this land? Because there's a whole history behind that. And there's a whole understanding that's necessary behind that. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, their work, the specific items around education are so important because what we're hoping to do is we're creating relationships. Our worldview is built on a foundation of relationships. It's relationships with one another, it's relationships with myself. It's relationships with the land and with nature and the creator. Those relationships are so important. So when I think about reconciliation, I think about, how can we mend these relationships? How can we create better understanding so that we can sit together and work together instead of having these big, huge mining corporations with this immense wealth and having such disparity where you have these communities with no jobs, just down the road. That's not reconciliation, that's something totally different. All of these, they're calls to action. We need to actually be able to say, how do we actually implement these? How do we implement on drip? How do we do all of this stuff that's going to contribute to a better relationship for all of us?

Kona Goulet:

Thank you for that and completely 100% agree. I think that looking at how we're going to implement the United Nations declaration for the rights of indigenous peoples and other frameworks, this is critical as we think about empowering and uplifting indigenous communities, rights to self-determination and economic self-determination. So thank you. First Nations University of Canada partnered with Reconciliation Education and BMO to create Nisitohtamowin. The e-learning initiative that to date nearly 25,000 BMO employees and 80% of our Canadian workforce has completed. Can you say more on why education is so important to progress reconciliation? You talked about it in your answer just earlier, but I'm hoping you can kind of expand upon it for our audience.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

There's people who are consumers of news can see across the country what's been going on and the challenges that exist in our society between different aspects of our communities. You see the challenges that are happening in the United States with the black community and in Canada, we've had these challenges for many, many, many years between indigenous Canadians and mainstream society. And one of the challenges that exist is that there's whole segments of society because of the education system that we've had for so long in this country. There's a lack of true understanding being given to little people, little kids, way back in the day. They weren't told appropriate teachings about us as indigenous people. Many people learned or didn't learn anything at all about us, but they also learned types of things that led to stereotypical beliefs of indigenous Canadians.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

For me, the challenge that exists is that there is still a lack of true awareness of what brought us here today. What are the treaties? What do those treaties mean? And why do we hang on to them so strongly? Why do we hang on to our indigeneity, our indigenous culture? Why do we hang on to that so strongly, right? Despite all the challenges that have been put against indigenous people, we're still here. Those languages still exist. All of us are looking towards enhancing and strengthening the culture and language that we have. So I think that for me, in order for us to have a future prosperity of coexistence, of relationships, there needs to be more understanding built about everything to do with Canada and how we got to where we are today. And I think that many people are trying to erase the history in the past.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

It's about respect and understanding and awareness. And I appreciate that BMO is doing what the company is doing, trying to engage people and start that conversation, go and take this little program and start learning about what this history is about here in Canada. Because it's a really, really important first step, right? So it's an important opening of that door, right? So hopefully, eventually, we'll have more and more people coming out to our pow wow here just because they want to know a little bit more. They want to talk, they want to meet and befriend an indigenous person and actually get a better understanding. Right? So, I still, today, these days, I get people look and they stare at you because you're wearing a suit, it's not normal still. When we can normalize the success of indigenous Canadians, then there's probably going to be a time where reconciliation is almost... We've got better. Right now, success for indigenous people and communities is such a... it's almost a rarity. That's not how life should be in Canada.

Kona Goulet:

Completely agree and thank you for that. And you and I have talked about the fact and you referenced earlier the last 150 years since Canada was formed as a nation, but of course, indigenous peoples were here many, many millennia before that. And when we think about the impact of colonization in Canada, we're talking the last 500 years, and Nisitohtamowin provides just an introduction to understanding indigenous perspectives in Canada, recognizing that further learning on indigenous people's, worldviews, cultures, histories, and more is an ongoing journey, and that individuals should pursue other learning opportunities beyond Nisitohtamowin. Can you say more on why ongoing pursuit of understanding and learning is so important and tell us a little bit about the additional educational resources and learning opportunities at First Nations University?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

When people are exposed to a little bit of understanding, oftentimes what you hope to achieve is just to gain interest, right? To be able to push people further along the road to understanding. Part of the challenge that we have is that being able to really, really dig into the depth that's necessary to understand the challenges that exist for indigenous Canadians today still, it's going to take some time, it's going to take some more commitment. It's going to not just open that door, but step in and really explore these ideas. And one of the challenges that exist is that I see many, many, many Canadians pursuing some understanding, and it's oftentimes because of work. But even that, I think there's so much value in that because corporations need to be able to tell their employees, their public, their society that this is what we believe in.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

This is what we're pursuing, and all of us working collectively in these organizations, it should be focused on these really, really important goals, right? So when you have that type of corporate leadership, it's going to impact the people that work within there, and they're going to obviously pursue hopefully more and more in greater understanding. For me, the worry that I have is that when somebody takes a smaller type of lower commitment program, they're sorted, they won't pursue anymore. Right? But I know that for me and my understanding of people, there's a whole lot of those people, that same group, there's a percentage of them that are going to pursue more. They're going to read a book, they're going to go and visit somebody, or they're going to go and take some more programs. We have lots of programs here that you can take.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

If somebody takes the program at BMO and you come to us, we have a five-hour program that they can actually dig into. We have a three credit hour, four months program that you can dig into. We have a certificate program, a degree program. We have masters programs that will enhance these understandings. And certainly I can honestly say that some people, even you got a master's degree and you're working for a corporation in Toronto, you come here and you'll get a certificate. That certificate will add value to you and your ability to create relationships with your corporation stakeholders who are working in these little communities, your operations in traditional territory of those communities. You're going to be able to impact the direction and the nature of the relationship between you and those communities in a much, much more enhanced, positive way. So I think that there's a whole lot of value that can be given to anybody interested in pursuing greater education on these topics so that they can go out and actually bring that type of knowledge into their workplace and their home.

Kona Goulet:

That's excellent. And we will, at the end of this podcast, have a link for the listeners to access Nisitohtamowin. And at the start of Nisitohtamowin, the introductory e-learning are links to all of the programs and certificates that Dr. Kayseas was just referencing and they are listed again at the end of the e-learning so that our listeners can access the opportunities you're describing. One last question, where do you see Canada on the journey to reconciliation today and what progress have you seen and what more needs to be done?

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

I see progress in certain ways. And I see it in the opportunities that our students, that our alumni are being able to access. I see the opportunities for them to be able to support their families. I see reconciliation being possible in some of the relationships that our governments are creating with other governments and with corporations, with municipalities. So there's reconciliation happening in many different areas of society. It's a rocky road because there's lots of rough patches. You see it with the inquiry in Quebec, you see it with the situation of Colton Bougie here in Saskatchewan. There's all kinds of examples that we can give and there's too many examples that we can give. There's too many examples of indigenous woman going missing. Where we are is a rocky start to this path, I believe the more that we can all try to push this understanding.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

And actually it's because this is two-sided, it's actually not... I don't think reconciliation is a responsibility of me as an indigenous person or offering your neighbor as an indigenous organization. Reconciliation is responsibility of everybody. It's a responsibility of every Canadian to be able to say to themselves, how do I get some more understanding? How do I create a relationship with an organization, with a person so that I can really have that empathy, that compassion and that support that's necessary. Right? And it goes both ways, I don't see today, any indigenous person holding their hand up saying, hey please help me. And I say to them, give me an opportunity, right? Let's create opportunities. And I think that where we are on this path is still at a very early stage.

Dr. Bob Kayseas:

It's a rocky road, but there's all kinds of glimmers of hope and optimism that I can see when you see, like I said, one of our alumni was given an indigenous entrepreneur of the year award just the other night. To me, that's great. That's awesome. And I was texting her and saying, that's amazing and we put it on our social media and we hold her up. And there's lots of examples like that, right across the country our young people are becoming more and more successful in many different ways. So it is happening and I think that it is my hope that the work that you guys are doing and the work that many other corporations I hope are going to be doing, is going to still continue to open these doors so people can get that understanding to create that energy that's necessary for us to have this reconciliation.

Kona Goulet:

[Cree language] Thank you, Dr. Kayseas for taking the time today to speak with us.

Michael Torrance:

Thanks for listening to Sustainability Leaders. This podcast is presented by BMO Financial Group. To access all the resources we discussed in today's episode, and to see our other podcasts, visit us at bmo.com/sustainabilityleaders. You can listen and subscribe free to our show on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast provider. And we'll greatly appreciate a rating and review, and any feedback that you might have. Our show and resources are produced with support from BMO's marketing team and Puddle Creative. Until next time, I'm Michael Torrance. Have a great week.

Disclosure:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, it's affiliates or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry strategy or security. This presentation may contain forward looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements as actual results could vary. This presentation is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute investment, legal, or tax advice, and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors should consult with an investment tax and or legal professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

 

Kona Goulet Head, Indigenous Equity & Inclusion, BMO Financial Group

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