Some Northern businesses still have a ways to go when it comes to implementing the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Among the 94 Calls to Action is one asking the corporate sector to commit to consulting Aboriginal groups appropriately, offer equal opportunities for training and employment and educate their staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. 

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TRC Chair Murray Sinclair says business leaders are still making decisions founded upon the twin myths that Aboriginal people are inferior and Europeans are superior. 'The business community needs to understand that and it needs to guard against it.' (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

TRC Chair Murray Sinclair says business leaders are still making decisions founded upon the twin myths that Aboriginal people are inferior and Europeans are superior.

"The business community needs to understand that and it needs to guard against it."

He says change is fundamental, "so they are not simply seeing Indigenous people as customers and clients but also partners in the business world."

Some progress, some status quo

For some companies, like Yukon's Air North, the work is already underway. The Whitehorse-based airline is 49 per cent owned by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

"We employ, train and have internships for members of the First Nation," said chief commercial officer Allan Moore in an email, adding that Air North sees the Vuntut Gwitchin are valuable partners.

But many businesses — even in the N.W.T. — are hardly even aware of the TRC recommendations.

CBC News called over a dozen companies and none of them had anything to share about how they were answering the calls to action. The owner of a large grocery store in Yellowknife said he didn't know what the TRC was. A Yellowknife pub manager said he was "Googling it right now."

The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce also had little to say on the subject.

"I believe that many businesses are following the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," executive director Deneen Everett said in an email, "however, we don't have the capacity to monitor this."

How to do it

David Newhouse, Onondaga from Six Nations of the Grand River and an Indigenous studies professor at Trent University, has a few tips for how businesses can meet the call to action.

He recently hosted a webinar on the topic for the Conference Board of Canada.

For small businesses, Newhouse suggests hiring Aboriginal staff, sourcing from local Aboriginal supplies and supporting sports team from communities.

For bigger businesses, he said the local chamber of commerce could bring in speakers.

Newhouse says it's important to find a way to include business in the reconciliation agenda.

"Universities are on board, provinces are on board, NGOs are board but there has been no discussion on business and it is one of the calls to action."