Through continued learning about the importance of Reconciliation and meaningful dialogue with Indigenous peoples, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has reached an important milestone in our ongoing Reconciliation journey.
We have just published our first Reconciliation Report (2021), which provides an evaluation of the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy’s impacts since its formalization in 2019. Activities tracked have included mandatory staff Reconciliation training or continuous learning opportunities, informal training opportunities, staff support systems, and community-driven work plans.
Publishing this report fulfils the NWMO’s commitment to establish a Reconciliation implementation strategy that is measured annually and reported publicly to contribute to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) calls to action.
The Reconciliation Report is an important development in the NWMO’s Reconciliation journey that began in 2018, building upon a strong foundation of meaningful dialogue with Indigenous peoples since our inception in 2002. It also provides a resource for other Canadian companies to consider how they will publicly set out to contribute to Reconciliation in their work.
“Status quo hasn’t served Indigenous peoples and won’t serve them well in the future. If we’re acting in a manner that is consistent with the status quo, we will not be successful as an organization. That’s our challenge, to change the way we’re doing business to ensure we are reflecting our commitment to Reconciliation,” said Bob Watts, Vice-President of Indigenous Relations and Strategic Programs at the NWMO.
“The NWMO is grateful for the many learnings we have received from the Council of Elders and Youth so far that have led to progress. We know we have more steps to take to grow as individuals and as an organization and look forward to continuing to advance our Reconciliation journey.”
The NWMO’s Reconciliation Report highlights
Overall, the report found the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy prompted employees to seek ways to integrate Indigenous perspectives and learnings into their work. Employees particularly expressed an appreciation for the organization’s continuous Reconciliation learning stream. To date, over 80 per cent of NWMO staff have completed the first two Reconciliation training modules, which include space for learning circles and Indigenous-led dialogue.
Additional highlights from the Annual Reconciliation Report for 2021 include:
• 13 assessments of NWMO governing documents to ensure Indigenous voice and worldview are reflected;
• Four projects related to Reconciliation and relationship building completed by First Nation and Métis communities in the siting region, in partnership with local municipal communities;
• 10 per cent of NWMO staff identified as Indigenous;
• 11 per cent of new hires identified as Indigenous; and
• $5.2 million in Indigenous community-guided investments ($15.9 million to date).
“I have been fortunate enough to participate in a number of Reconciliation assessments at the NWMO, which prompt thoughtful dialogue on how our work is contributing to Reconciliation, if we have considered Indigenous perspectives, and how we are creating space for Indigenous voices,” said Chris Vardy, Director, Management System and Performance Improvement at the NWMO.
“At first, it was difficult to find ways of addressing these questions, but with a little effort and practice, and with the tremendous patience and support of our Indigenous Relations team, we are finding new and creative ways to really make a difference in how we approach our work.”
The report also includes feedback from an NWMO staff survey that asked employees to reflect on their understanding of Reconciliation, plus provide recommendations for how the NMWO can better support their professional and personal Reconciliation journeys.
About the NWMO’s Reconciliation journey so far
The NWMO was one of the first North American organizations with a formal Reconciliation policy, aligning our energy with other corporations that are dedicated to taking concrete action in terms of meeting the TRC’s calls to action (released in 2015). Specifically, Call to Action #92 asks Canada’s corporate sector to build respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples and provide education for management and staff on the history of Indigenous peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools.
Since then, the NWMO has achieved several important milestones, including:
Reconciliation Statement (2018): This published statement recognizes the NWMO’s ongoing involvement, collaboration and discussions with Indigenous (First Nation and Métis) communities and all those involved with implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel.
Reconciliation Policy (2019): As a followup to the Reconciliation Statement, in 2019 the NWMO issued a Reconciliation Policy that sets out how we will contribute to Reconciliation. Under the policy, the NWMO commits to respectful and meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples and communities, providing cultural awareness and Reconciliation training to staff and contractors, and establishing an implementation plan.
Reconciliation Assessment Tool (2019): This tool has been used to evaluate governing policies, procedures and plans. A series of cascading questions (interrelated questions that build on each other towards a meaningful outcome) guides a Reconciliation-based learning dialogue to identify areas where Reconciliation and Indigenous Knowledge can contribute to the NWMO’s work in meaningful ways.
Reconciliation training program (2010 ongoing): As part of implementing the Reconciliation Policy, we built on our earlier cultural awareness program and created several mandatory and informal continuous learning or training opportunities for NWMO staff. To anchor this Reconciliation focus, we work with Indigenous Knowledge Holders to enhance organizational learning through meaningful discussions about Indigenous worldview and history.
About the Annual Reconciliation Report
This report was created by Reciprocal Consulting, an award-winning, Indigenous-owned research firm that we started working with in 2020. At that time, it helped us develop a Reconciliation baseline to begin measuring the steps taken by the organization to ensure Reconciliation is reflected in all our work. Throughout the process of developing the baseline, Reciprocal Consulting interviewed NWMO staff, members of the Council of Elders and Youth, key partners and other organizations in the nuclear industry to gain a comprehensive understanding of their view of the NWMO’s commitments to Reconciliation. The baseline offered recommendations that included creating opportunities for the NWMO’s commitments to Reconciliation to be more visible to the general public.
We invite Canadians and Canadian corporations to review the Reconciliation Report and learn more about the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy.
About the NWMO
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository, in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.
Founded in 2002, the NWMO has been guided for 20 years by a dedicated team of world-class scientists, engineers and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers that are developing innovative and collaborative solutions for nuclear waste management. Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2024, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area in northwestern Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area in southern Ontario.