FREDERICTON— JEDI, Joint Economic Development Initiative, aims to increase Indigenous people’s participation in New Brunswick’s workforce. When they failed to make sufficient inroads with employers, they developed a strategy to help them make more breakthroughs.

JEDI’s Employer Toolkit compiles available grants and supports for hiring Indigenous people in the province. It includes a map of the First Nation communities in New Brunswick, along with tips for the recruitment process and tips for cultural awareness training and appreciation.

“The biggest part for us is helping provide a tool for employers to show how they best incorporate Indigenous culture into their workplace, making it welcome for Indigenous people,” said Stanley Barnaby, acting CEO at JEDI.

One of the largest focuses of the Toolkit is reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Barnaby said it is good for employers to understand what the calls to action are and how they can incorporate them into their workplaces.

The Toolkit recommends employers go through JEDI’s IRAM training, which stands for Indigenous reconciliation awareness module. The program, which consists of one and a half days of in-person training or four two and a half-hour webinar sessions, goes through lessons like the history of Indigenous people in Canada, issues coming to light today, and intergenerational trauma.

“[This is] so the employers really understand where the Indigenous people are coming from … understand the history, the trauma that people have gone through,” said Barnaby.

Barnaby said that IRAM training also sparks conversations on how to include Indigenous culture in their workplace.

By educating employers on the history and traditions of Indigenous Peoples, they hope to build a level of understanding that will be useful when dealing when differences in culture that come up in the workplace.

This could be as simple as adding Indigenous languages to the business’ welcome sign or giving time off for Indigenous holidays or cultural practices like extended grieving processes.

“If there’s a death in the community the whole community closes down, and they usually close down for close to a week,” said Barnaby. “That doesn’t really align up with current HR policies in most organizations or businesses.”

Barnaby said that most tribal councils have ISET (Indigenous Skills and Employment Training), a program meant to help Indigenous people to enter the workforce. Programs like the Future Wabanaki and the Indigenous Internship Program help to set up Indigenous workers to find jobs in New Brunswick.

The Employer Toolkit puts some of the responsibility in the hands of the employer.

“We’d really like this Toolkit to be used for the employers to create better systems and have better connections and have better resources when employing Indigenous people,” said Barnaby. “It’s really just trying to change organizational culture.”

Barnaby hopes the Toolkit will give more opportunities to Indigenous people in New Brunswick.

He said that making the workplace welcome to Indigenous people will benefit the company as well as the individual since the long-term success of employees directly leads to the long-term success of businesses.

“The Indigenous population is the fastest-growing population in Canada,” said Barnaby. “We need organizations and companies to change their diversity and inclusion plans to better incorporate for that workforce that is up and coming.”

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Rachel Smith is an intern for Huddle, based in Fredericton. Send her story suggestions: [email protected].