5 questions with bestselling author and businessman Bob Joseph

The founder of Indigenous Corporate Training in Port Coquitlam talks about working with First Nations.

Credit: Courtesy of Indigenous Corporate Training

The founder of Indigenous Corporate Training in Port Coquitlam talks about working with First Nations

1. What does the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission mean for the corporate world in terms of dealing with Indigenous Peoples?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 94 calls to action for every sector and segment of Canadian society. The 92nd was specifically for the business community, asking them to make resources available for their people to learn the history, culture, residential schools, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP].

This article could be considered a reconciliatory gesture for trying to help people understand a little bit about that.

2. What’s the best way to avoid delays in completing development projects involving Indigenous communities?

You’ve got this conundrum where companies have legal and regulatory requirements to consult with First Nations who don’t get money to talk to those businesses. Capacity funding is a way that a company can address that to try to meet their timeline commitments, because if you’re the local First Nation and you’ve got 500 referrals, how do you get through them? Some are massive projects, which require a fair bit of reading of technical reports. So we’re always encouraging our clients: you should consider providing capacity funding for hiring experts to help them.

Some might say, we don’t do that for anybody else, why should we do it for these people? And we’ll say, because they have the ability to tie your project up in legal wrangling if you’re ordered to do additional consultation. They can ask the judges to review the meaningfulness and adequacy of consultation that’ll tie up a project for a minimum of three years. So if you consider a $500-million project with $5 million a month in project delay fees, if you provide an Indigenous group with $3 million to work effectively with you, it’ll save you $180 million.

3. Why should businesses learn about Indigenous culture?

If we were to send you to another country to do business, we wouldn’t send you there without knowing about the history and the culture and communications preferences. This is just like doing business with First Nations. There are seven different language families, over 50 different dialects, so there’s just such cultural diversity. And they live under a whole different set of laws. There’s Section 35 [of the Constitution Act], constitutionally protected rights. And they live under the Indian Act, which nobody else does.

4. What is important to know about obtaining First Nations’ consent?

There is no veto in Canadian law for First Nations when it comes to consulting about highway construction, logging operations or mining operations, that kind of stuff. Then along comes the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says that if we want to develop the lands of Indigenous Peoples around the globe, the standard we should use is Free, Prior and Informed Consent. One of the big points we try to make is, if you get their consent, you never have to worry about the legal stuff. If you just go work with them, get them onside first and then go for your development permits later, you’re going to be way more successful than somebody who is just trying to use the law: we’ll give them 180 days and all of that timeline stuff. If you’re looking for economic certainty, it’s not a bad way to go.

5. What’s next?

Truth and Reconciliation, the UN Declaration, they’re non-binding, but governments across the country are trying to find ways to roll them into legislation. We want to be thinking like the Great One, Wayne Gretzky. He wasn’t that concerned with where the puck is. What he wanted to know was, where will that puck be in about two plays, and how do I get there?

If we could get your business leaders thinking about where the puck will be in two years, it’s going to be more of an UNDRIP world and a reconciliatory world, and it’ll be all about our relationships with Indigenous Peoples. So if you’re looking for great opportunity and to do things that are rewarding personally and for the firm, then go out and build those relationships.

NEW ROLE: A hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk Tribe in the Queen Charlotte Strait region of the Central Coast
LATEST BOOK PUBLISHED: Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality, in May
FAVOURITE PLACE IN B.C.: Haida Gwaii, and I say that knowing that my own community will probably get mad at me because we have a pretty beautiful territory, too
HOW I UNWIND: My passion is fishing. When I pull away from the wharf, that’s a pretty good world for me