Celebrating together: National Aboriginal Day celebrations at TransCanada included a traditional dance by Thundering Nations International Dance Troop
It’s entirely possible that Art Cunningham was the first person in Canada to be called an Aboriginal relations liaison. As a member of the Métis Community of Alberta, he was hired in 1982 to work as a corrosion technician at NOVA (prior to the TransCanada merger). Art worked for eight years before taking on the role of Aboriginal relations liaison to support project teams in finding employment and contracting opportunities for Aboriginal Peoples.
“Communities were surprised because we were the first ones who were talking to them and approaching them to do work. And the significance was we weren’t even crossing reservations,” says Cunningham. “Anywhere we built pipelines, we notified the communities about where these opportunities were and where they could find work.”
On National Aboriginal Day (NAD) – June 21, 2015 – recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ history in Canada is taking centre stage, and TransCanada is proud to celebrate a history that is rich in culture, tradition and diversity.
TransCanada’s celebrations of NAD included a traditional dance by Thundering Nations International Dance Troop, who were then joined in the dance by TransCanada staff.
“I think it’s important to recognize NAD as a company for the same reason that it’s important to recognize it as citizens,” says Penny Favel, TransCanada’s director of Indigenous relations. “It’s all part of our shared history. And particularly at TransCanada, where so many of our activities take us into an interface with our partner communities. Of course we celebrate a day with our partner communities.”
In Canada, the relationship between government and Aboriginal Peoples has continually evolved since it was first established over 300 years ago. And while the relationship of industry with Indigenous Peoples is unique from that of government, TransCanada has a role to play in the conversation, as we work closely with Indigenous communities across the vast North American landscape.
“The thing that makes this work important to me is my commitment to the recognition that Canada was a country that was inhabited by Aboriginal people before Europeans. We’ve worked to build a country together in a way that – it hasn’t always been an easy way, or fair, or the way we’d like to see it – but it’s a shared history,” says Favel. “It’s so important to me that we recognize that, and that TransCanada doesn’t lose sight of that Canadian history or the Canadian reality. I believe we are continuing to move in the right direction.”
“We developed policies that carry some very sound, proven principles. And the fascinating part about those principles is that they were based on our actual experiences working with the communities. It wasn’t an academic exercise,” says Cunningham. “Those principles have held sound for the past 15 years and they carry over to work with the Tribes in the United States and Indigenous Peoples in Mexico.”
As with so many of TransCanada’s Indigenous relations practices, the Aboriginal Relations Policy was adopted long before engagement with Indigenous communities became a regulatory requirement. These policies embody TransCanada’s values and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility.
In honour of all North American indigenous peoples celebrations, TransCanada recognizes days that celebrate indigenous peoples across all of our three countries.
“It’s our shared history, not just with First Nations, but other communities,” Favel adds. “And there are other days that celebrate and honour other Indigenous communities and we recognize those days. NAD is part of the fabric of Canada.”