Custom Indigenous programs created for rural Canadian Communities
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Along the Alaska Highway in the Peace River Valley, the City of Fort St. John serves as a central hub for economic development in Northeastern British Columbia. Despite being the largest city in the region, its remoteness requires a strong commitment from residents to reach out for leadership learning opportunities that help strengthen and grow their community.
Local Aboriginal business and wellness entrepreneur Paulette Flamond, a Métis woman originally from Battleford, Saskatchewan, understands the need to bring more of these opportunities into the community. As an enthusiastic advocate, Flamond speaks openly about continuing to address concerns specific to the context that they are living in.
“I firmly believe that we need to bring more training into communities to allow more people to be able to attend. There is a real need for leadership development training, but it’s hard to travel such a long distance and be away from family for a week at a time,” said Flamond.
Flamond boasts a lengthy resume as a founding member of the Northeast Aboriginal Business and Wellness Centre, currently serving as Executive Director. She also sits on the Native Economic Development Advisory Board for the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, is Vice President of the B.C. Aboriginal Business Service Network Society, and a Board Member of the Fort St. John Métis Society. She considers herself a lifelong learner and found value in a custom program offered by Lougheed Leadership in Fort St. John.
“There was lots of time to collaborate with our peers through hands on exercises. It was an informal setting that allowed participation. That type of learning allows people from all areas to learn from one another,” said Flamond. “The faculty was phenomenal. They had a breadth of experience working with First Nations across Canada and the United States. The content diverted into stories and that is extremely impactful from an aboriginal perspective.”
Support from Shell Canada enabled Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity to provide Indigenous leaders with customized training in communities across Canada to address their most pressing needs. This partnership allowed 79 leaders from 13 different First Nations an opportunity to participate in learning opportunities focused on negotiation skills, good governance, and economic development.
“Supporting Indigenous leadership and economic development programs provides opportunities for leaders to enhance the skills required to assist their communities,” said Bea Ewanchuk, Senior Social Investment Advisor, Shell Canada. “Banff Centre is well-known for delivering culturally-relevant programs that assist participants to develop strong leadership skills. These programs give participants practical hands-on learning experiences and the faculty teams are subject matter experts.”
I firmly believe that we need to bring more training into remote communities to allow more people to be able to attend. There is a real need for leadership development training, but it’s hard to travel such a long distance and be away from family for a week at a time.
Future modifications of this cross-country program specific to communities needs includes increasing its length so programs can go towards the Certificate of Indigenous Leadership and Management Excellence, formalizing the inclusion of a local elder in each program to provide spiritual guidance, and continued research into which topics are most suitable for communities.
“We debrief after each session, incorporating feedback from participants, faculty, and staff to ensure that participants are receiving the best value from the program and to ensure the program is continually being enhanced,” said Ewanchuk.
Shell has supported Banff Centre for over 20 years through scholarships that allow Indigenous leaders to attend programs in Banff. This support has resulted in more economically sustainable communities, effective mentorship of the next generation of leaders, and more effective relations with industry. This commitment has made a meaningful difference in enabling Indigenous communities across Canada to address their most pressing needs. Now, this new partnership is enabling more access to these programs in remote and rural areas.
“Having the program delivered at Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Southwestern Ontario meant we could offer the platform to more individuals than we would ever be able to send to Banff. Participants from four First Nations communities attended, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” said Kristina Zimmer, Senior Aboriginal Consultation Advisor, Shell Sarnia Manufacturing Centre.
Peer-to-peer learning is a critical element of the programming, learning from a community that includes Elders, business experts, researchers, practitioners, and artists – all supplemented with stories of success from documented case studies. This powerful methodology creates a safe space for participants to develop the skills required to better manage the needs and issues facing their specific organizations and communities: how to generate ideas, explore possibilities, and implement action plans with real and meaningful results around issues that tend to be complex and divisive.
“I was given the opportunity to experience various industry related matters from the perspective of First Nations communities. The program helped me see first-hand the tremendous value of working together with First Nations towards mutually beneficial solutions,” said Zimmer.
This customized in-community partnership let participants not only improve their own skills and capacities, but also allowed them to inspire others to make extraordinary contributions to their cultural landscape. Using this new toolkit, participants were able to share their new teachings with their staff, peers, and families.
“The instructors took the time to understand the climate in Northeast BC, the priorities of the First Nations, and ensured there were real life examples that applied to those concerns,” said Tamara Dokkie, Senior Aboriginal Consultation Advisor, Shell Canada. “They made themselves available to assist the communities and were very knowledgeable about a broad spectrum, they could also “think outside the box” and give the First Nations unique and new ideas to explore.”