Following an 18-month review, the country’s largest Crown corporation has announced a new strategy for its relationship with Indigenous people and northern communities.
Details of Canada Post’s Indigenous and Northern Reconciliation Strategy were revealed this past week.
Canada Post hired Dale LeClair as its first director of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the spring of 2019 to examine the corporation’s relationship with Indigenous people and communities in the north.
“It’s an internal look at where we are and where we want to be,” LeClair said of Canada strategy. “It’s been 18 months in the making.”
The strategy indicates that there is plenty of room for improving the Canada Post/Indigenous relationship. But it also demonstrates Canada Post’s commitment to ensure these improvements become reality.
Canada Post officials have identified about 1,200 First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities across the country.
“We’re really only in less than 200 of those communities. I’m very pleased that our (Canada Post) board and executive realize that we have to address that,” said LeClair, who grew up on the Peavine Métis Settlement in Alberta.
Getting a post office building, however, into every single Indigenous and northern community is not something that will be accomplished overnight. Or over the course of many years.
For starters, LeClair said Canada Post officials have had discussions with about 30 First Nations across the country about the possibility of either building a new post office or improving current services in their communities.
Improvements to existing locations can include installing postal lockers and having better access to financial, remittance and government services.
“Over the next five years we’ll be looking at those first 30 (communities),” said LeClair, adding the locations being considered are scattered across the country.
Improving postal services, on a case-by-case basis with communities, is one of four key pillars in the strategy.
Another pillar is developing and implementing an Indigenous procurement policy. The goal is to begin developing this policy and have it start in the second quarter of next year.
LeClair said 25 Indigenous individuals will be hired as part of this policy.
“Hopefully by January we’ll have the substantive part of the team in place,” he said.
Team members will assist with redefining Canada Post’s relationship with Indigenous-owned companies.
The plan is to have Canada Post communicate with their suppliers to ensure they engage more with Indigenous communities.
These partnership engagements can be in various forms, including Indigenous workforce apprenticeships, training or development, as well as subcontracting.
Another pillar is to improve Indigenous employment and retention.
Though he didn’t provide specific numbers, LeClair said Canada Post’s current Indigenous workforce is underrepresented in the corporation and employment numbers have fallen short of targets.
LeClair said various barriers, including rules for unionized labour and the fact some Indigenous people are not keen to move away from their communities to cities in order to work for Canada Post, have kept employment numbers at less than ideal levels.
“We have not had much success in the last 10-, 15- years in this area,” LeClair said of the number of Indigenous people Canada Post employs. “We now know we have to be better. It’s our hope we can substantially increase our numbers. So, over the next five years we are going to hire 3,500 Indigenous employees.”
The final pillar is to support the viability, wellness and safety of Indigenous communities.
To this end Canada Post officials have agreed to step up their efforts to work with various community leaders and law enforcement agencies.
“We are the primary mover of parcels and mail,” LeClair said.
This means that Canada Post employees are the ones who often deliver packages, including alcohol and drugs, that can wreak havoc in communities.
“We are now on a full-fledged program where we want to focus on protecting these communities from illicit drugs and alcohol,” LeClair said.
Doug Ettinger, Canada Post’s president and CEO, is pleased to see his corporation has developed its new strategy.
“It commits us to taking concrete action to renew our longstanding relationship with Indigenous and northern communities,” he said. “While other organizations are also making efforts to move forward on reconciliation, we’re starting to implement our strategy now, and as Canada’s largest Crown corporation we have a unique opportunity to play a meaningful role in reconciliation.”
By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com