Sask. Federation of Labour talks reconciliation in the workplace

This year's convention, taking place in Saskatoon, kicked off with a panel that included two Indigenous speakers from Treaty 6 territory.

'We have some responsibilities as Canadians to address the challenges': president

This year's annual convention featured a jingle dress demonstration by Saskatoon resident Randi Lynn Nanemahoo-Candline, who is a member of Big Stone Cree Nation in Alberta. Here, she explains the jingle dress to hundreds of Saskatchewan Federation of Labour convention attendees. (Saskatchewan Federation of Labour)

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is focusing its annual convention this year on reconciliation - how it applies to the workforce and its members.

"It's a really important topic for us to deal with," said Larry Hubich, the organization's president.

"We have lots of folks in our movement who are Indigenous and it's something that needs to happen ... and we have some responsibilities as Canadians to address the challenges."

This year's convention, taking place in Saskatoon, kicked off with a panel that included two Indigenous speakers from Treaty 6 territory.

"I think [Indigenous] women are underestimated," said Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, a member of Beardy's and Okemasis Cree Nation and co-chair of Iskwewuk Ewichiwitochik (Women Walking Together).

Indigenous women have three strikes against them, said Okemaysim-Sicotte. "We have our gender, that we're Indigenous, and the other strike is 'Are we employable?' Yes, we are employable. We have to walk in two worlds, so that requires skills."

In a lot of Indigenous families, women have taken on a leadership role, she added.

"Indigenous women, for the most part, have to be the ones that speak up for the family, rear the children, work with the community as a whole and also figure out how the other world works."

All of these skills tend to be overlooked, said Okemaysim-Sicotte, but added she feels they should be seen as CEO- or COO-worthy attributes.

Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, left, and Max FineDay were invited to this year's Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's annual convention to sit on a panel about Reconciliation and the Role Organized Labour Can Play. (Saskatchewan Federation of Labour)

Canadian Roots Exchange co-director Max FineDay said Saskatchewan has an opportunity to achieve reconciliation.

"We have a thriving and growing First Nations and Métis population in this province," said FineDay, who was also a panel member at the convention.

"We have an aging workforce who we'll need to replace."

One way to take a step in the right direction is by hiring Indigenous people, said FineDay.

"Make sure your workforce is as representative of the province as it possibly can be. Why not have 15 per cent of your workforce be Indigenous?"  

The next step is to start addressing the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and incorporating them into the federation's work structures, said Hubich. 

That means "acknowledging that we're on First Nations and Indigenous land and all of the things that go along with that, and actually having it form part of our dialogue and part of our conversation in every meeting that we have."

In terms of what each person can do individually with regards to reconciliation, Hubich had this advice: "Read the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and pick one or two and work towards those."

About the Author

Brad Bellegarde

Reporter for CBC Indigenous based in Saskatchewan

Born and raised in Treaty 4 Territory, he holds an Indian Communication Arts Certificate from the First Nations University of Canada and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Regina. Follow him on Twitter @BBellegardeCBC