CDN Controls: Indigenous Partnerships Should Live At The Apex Of Authenticity

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Canada’s formal endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 (and its Royal Assent in 2021) fundamentally changed how Canadian businesses approach Indigenous engagement.

If we consider Canada’s legal imperative to recognize and respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples, I would dare to qualify the last decade as culturally transformative. Couple this with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, the thousands of unmarked graves discovered at former residential schools sites, and the mounting pressure to address the systemic horror of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and I believe we have reached a long-sought point of reckoning in our relationships with Indigenous nations. While overdue, there is a readiness to forge a new conversation, and a new path forward, and a rightful place for all. How we engage in these conversations—and meaningful action—has never mattered more.

As people, our widened awakening has pressed the imperative to learn—and, in too many cases—unlearn. As businesses, the same learning/unlearning imperative remains. Personally and professionally, we are responsible for doing more, but how that “more” is achieved has never mattered—well—more.

It is not enough to consider what we are going to do to engage in meaningful Indigenous relationships; we must first consider the authenticity and intentionality with which we approach this work.

A relationship built from obligation is one that brings with it a heavy burden of frustration, guilt, and even resentment. Consciously or not, it manifests a narrow view of what is possible and keeps the focus—wrongly—on a “should” and “must” mindset. Not only is this a meaningless approach, but it also discounts the very possible cultivation of a positive, shared experience. It deprives us of mutually beneficial relationships that will grow, mature, and endure.

Contrast this with an authentic approach; one that brings with it the ability to show up with a lightness of heart and mind, ready to learn, to be committed, and to show respect and kindness. Businesses that have focussed on Indigenous engagement for reasons that go well beyond an obligation, legal requirements, or a checking-of-the-box exercise meet Indigenous communities with an authenticity that is seen and felt.

In Western and colonial cultures that reward efficient business transactions and the act of being productive over being present, there is an inherent clash in the way relationships are created. It feels uncomfortable to provide time for easy banter, to allow space between spoken sentences, and time between decisions. But when a partnership is formed on the foundation of a meaningful relationship – the fulsome benefits extend well beyond a formal handshake or a signature on a cheque. It creates a space for real community wellness, capacity building, employment opportunities, mutual support, and guidance. And in the process, demonstrates that legitimate and authentic relationships are built from real curiosity.

At CDN, this is where we’ve always begun—with an understanding that the formal Indigenous partnerships we hold are driven by the heart of leadership and positioned meaningfully as drivers to real, tangible economic reconciliation and community support. They are the stepping stones to shared success on the lands we live, work, and play upon—and the lands whose history has thus far been told incompletely. We have much to learn and we welcome that learning as an extension of our growth. The six Indigenous Nations we are partnered with—Aseniwuche Winewak Nation, Halfway River First Nation, Kelly Lake Cree Nation, Kitsumkalum First Nation, Paul First Nation, and Tsuut’ina Nation—are teachers on our journey. And we hold them in this high esteem. These relationships continue to teach us that listening and learning live at the apex of authentic relationships—and are acts of reconciliation themselves. And we still have much to hear and learn.

As a leader within the Canadian ESG cosmos, I am privileged to share an insight on this discourse from a non-Indigenous voice. Indigenous Nations have Knowledge Keepers, Elders and advocates to ensure their history, stories and voices are heard authentically. Their perspectives and ideas bring generations—and centuries—of Indigenous ways of knowing and make them the true stewards of how meaningful, authentic relationships can be built. As much as I aspire to learn and understand, I will never hold the privilege to speak as anything other than an ally—and to guide my organization, and our broader business industry—as such.


CDN Controls is Western Canada’s leader in electrical and instrumentation maintenance, automation, communication, and renewable/solar services. United by a shared belief that clients are best served by a service provider in the relentless pursuit of solving challenges through impactful relationships and partnerships, CDN’s collective team of more than 650 employees and contractors are committed to the highest standards in performance, measurement, and safety — and, above all, pride in a job well done. With nine branches in Alberta and B.C., and six formal Indigenous partnerships, CDN Controls delivers systems that perform. CDN remains the only energy services provider to voluntarily report its ESG performance annually. Download the latest report at cdncontrols.ca/esg.

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