A reckoning with our past can create an awakening for the future.
Recent discoveries of human remains at residential schools across Canada has brought disturbing aspects of Canadian history to the forefront. For many, this has created new understanding of decades long colonization and religious assimilation of Indigenous people.
The devastating truths about the treatment of Indigenous people have been deeply felt by our people for generations. It has only been more recently that I began to learn more about my family’s personal ties with the residential and day school programs in Ontario. This journey for me has been difficult, but necessary to understand the roots of my ancestors and to better understand the aftermath of such trauma. What has given me peace at times, is knowing that in my role at 3M and in my community – I can help educate others and build more empathy and understanding for future generations.
In the past few years, 3M Canada has taken action to begin the process of building allyship and greater inclusion towards Indigenous employees and communities. In 2020, we founded an Indigenous Employee Resource Network (ERN) made up of both Status and Non-Status Indigenous employees as well as allies across Canada at 3M.
Our Indigenous ERN: A network of support and education.
Twenty employees from various walks of life, including three employees from First Nations communities, embarked on an intense learning journey. Our aim was to better understand the history of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples and to share our personal stories to help employees build their own knowledge and empathy.
Through online courses, dialogue with each other and hosting conversations with the Indigenous community, the ERN aims to help 3M employees in Canada build their own knowledge and understanding, thoughtfully – without rushing to solutions, by taking the time to understand the depth of history and issues facing Indigenous people in their communities.
The purpose of the 3M Canada Indigenous ERN is to also create a safe environment for 3M employees to ask questions, to seek out their own knowledge of Indigenous history and issues and in that – do our part toward reconciliation in Canada.
"After the first Indigenous ERN fireside chat, and sharing my story, I received an outpouring of support from colleagues that was unexpected. I have always been proud of my Indigenous identity, but more internally. Having the support and space to talk about my background was an opportunity to share that pride, and it felt very good. It's allowed me to connect on a deeper level with my colleagues."
- Pauline Handfield, CIR Senior Analyst, 3M Canada
Status First Nations person with ties to Kahnawake Mohawk Territory
Making meaningful action towards change.
In addition to providing consultation to 3M Canada leaders on topics and programs that may interact with Indigenous communities or charitable organizations, the Indigenous ERN has created programming for 3M employees who are looking to expand their understanding and exposure to Indigenous voices.
In hosting online events with Indigenous community members and speakers, we have been able to engage our 1,900 employees across Canada and ignite their desire to learn more about Indigenous culture and history. There have been many thoughtful questions, heartfelt dialogue and the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done. I want everyone to walk into 3M and feel like they can contribute in a meaningful way. They’re bringing their whole selves to work, and that’s what our ERN is bringing to us. If we can embrace different ways to do things, the opportunities are endless.”
- Carrie Ramsay, Finance Director, Transportation and Electronics Business Group, Executive Sponsor, Diversity and Inclusion Council, 3M Canada
This year, to mark National Truth and Reconciliation Day, we are hosting a virtual tour of the former Mohawk Institute through the Woodland Cultural Centre to hear first-hand from survivors of the residential school. The Indigenous ERN advocated for a moment of silence across all eight 3M Canada locations at 2:15 p.m. on September 30. The number 215 signifies the number of human remains found at the residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia. Flags will also be lowered at all 3M Canada locations and employees have been provided with educational resources to help them on their knowledge journey.
These thoughtful actions are small steps towards fostering an understanding and respect for Indigenous people.
Supporting students in the classroom.
With 3M employees now engaged in a journey of learning, we also want to take action. Our ERN wanted to do something meaningful in our local community.
This year, the Indigenous ERN led a donation drive, a pack-up event and delivered backpacks full of school supplies to First Nations schools in the London region. Employees at 3M Canada donated 150 backpacks and supplies toward the drive, which were all delivered in August just in time to start the new school year.
Our 3Mgives volunteers also brought along some orange Post-It® Notes and we took turns writing messages of kindness, support and inspiration. The first day of school can be nerve-wracking, and we wanted these students to know they just need to believe in themselves, and their future possibilities are endless.
The pursuit of knowledge and understanding.
I am proud of the work we have done so far as an ERN, and the support we’ve received from our company’s leaders, and colleagues who have started on their own paths of learning. There is no easy or quick way to process and understand centuries of pain and systemic injustice. This work will take years, likely decades, and we want to do this right. It is a complicated journey – and there is no short cut. But our Indigenous ERN is heartened by the support we’ve received from our colleagues and our company so far. I look forward to continuing on this path of purposeful action towards change and understanding.