“It’s all part of our people-first values,” says Mark Stafford, Vice President and District Manager in Ontario. “We want to reflect the communities where we live and work.”
Sharing experience and storiesThe Sharing Circle, CWB’s Indigenous ERG, brings together both Indigenous staff and allies from across the country and all CWB Financial Group to create a space to talk about their experiences. “We want to create a safe space for all of us to talk and learn from each other,” Mark explains. He is also an active member of the group, bringing the perspective of his Metis heritage.
Bradley Miller, Senior Process Analyst in Edmonton, is also part of the Sharing Circle. He and his wife are foster parents for Indigenous youth, and while his role as a parent brought him to Sharing Circle with a strong understanding of Indigenous culture, their ways of being, and the societal barriers they face, he joined the growing ERG to help create a more inclusive future for his children.
“I don’t remember learning about residential schools and the impacts on Indigenous culture when I was in school,” says Brad. “At least not to the degree that I have now that I’ve become a foster parent. I don’t want my kids to feel prejudice for who they are because of the ignorance of the past.”
Our leadership team and employees recognize that each of us as individuals, and CWB Financial Group as an organization, have critical roles to play in active reconciliation, which begins with listening and learning. There is much work ahead, but we are all committed to the journey.
“These conversations bring out the humanity of what’s happened and the challenges that Indigenous peoples have had to deal with for generations,” says Mark. “In terms of all these colonial systems that were put in place as a program of assimilation, it’s bout recognizing these are part of our journey to truth and reconciliation.”
Working together for a better futureAnother element of active reconciliation at CWB is creating opportunities for growth in the communities in which we operate. Earlier this year, we established the Indigenous Internship and Co-op Program, providing high quality employment opportunities to Indigenous post-secondary students and graduates.
Kayla Heath is part of this program interning with the legal team in Victoria, as well as a member of the Sharing Circle. “Bringing people together in the Sharing Circle is a place for employees to share their collective experience, and a place for allies to learn. People can feel included,” she says. “CWB is doing the hard work needed to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
But the work doesn’t stop with internal investment and a culture of inclusion.
This summer, Fort Edmonton Park reopens its doors to visitors with a new expansion exploring the history of Treaty 6 territory. The Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton is the result of meaningful collaboration several contributors, including over 50 indigenous elders, and highlights the deep connections their communities have made to Alberta’s rich history. To help bring this incredible vision to life, CWB donated $100,000 to the project, which opens on July 1, 2021.
Truth and reconciliation is only just beginning, and there is a lot more hard work ahead. But by taking the proper steps down this path, we can continue learning and growing together.