Human rights museum, U of W team up to teach business execs about Indigenous rights

Business executives and organizational leaders have a new course to help them make their workplaces more respectful of Indigenous rights.

Program aims to help executives learn how to make workplaces more respectful

The six-day immersive course will be offered at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which developed the course in partnership with the University of Winnipeg. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Business executives and organizational leaders have a new course to help them make their workplaces more respectful of Indigenous rights.

The six-day immersive course will be offered at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which developed the course in partnership with the University of Winnipeg.

More than a dozen Indigenous leaders, activists, educators and scholars will lead participants through presentations and discussions that explore best practices for creating inclusive work cultures.

Mirielle LaMontagne, manager of advanced and professional programs at CMHR, said almost every professional group that has come through the museum since it opened has asked for something along these lines.

"I think that a lot of executives, whether they work for government or private corporations or non-governmental organizations are really struggling to find ways to be responsive to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action," LaMontagne said.

When the museum first opened, LaMontagne said the focus was on developing programming for children in school.

"We got to a point in our discussions in our partnership with the University of Winnipeg, where we just said, 'You know what? We've gotta go to the top, we've gotta go to the decision makers. We've gotta find the influencers, the ones who can actually change corporate cultures."

The hope is that by changing the culture at the top, those effects will trickle down to the rest of these organizations, LaMontagne said.

The program was one year in the making. The pilot program begins June 19 with a discussion at CMHR which is free and open to the public.

Loretta Ross, Manitoba Treaty Relations Commissioner, and Derek Nepinak, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, will discuss ways businesses can respond to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"This program offers a unique way to engage executives and senior leaders and provide them with a deep learning experience, so they can bring this knowledge back to the decision-making table and influence positive action," Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor of the U of W, said in a news release.

Former MLA and Business Council of Manitoba vice-president Kevin Chief will also be one of the course leaders.

"In this era of reconciliation, we are all looking for ways to build leadership by bringing people together," Chief said in the release. "Sharing our stories of vulnerability, in a sincere way, can lead to the understanding that is the basis for co-operation."

In addition to learning from residential school survivors and experts on Indigenous cultures, participants will design action plans for their own workplaces.

"So that by the time you're leaving the program at the end of the week, you're going home with something that is nearly ready to implement," said LaMontagne.

LaMontagne said her hope is that after participants complete the course, organizers can provide some support for the first few months as executives try to implement their plans.

Other program leaders include Leah Gazan, special projects coordinator at the U of W, educator Charlene Bearhead, Mitch Bourbonniere of the Bear Clan Patrol, North End youth activist Michael Champagne and Sen. Marilou McPhedran.

With files from Ismaila Alfa