Respect and patience are essential to advancing Reconciliation

The Nuclear Waste Management organization shared a step in its Reconciliation journey with the South Bruce community earlier this month.

Members of the South Bruce Community Liaison Committee (CLC) welcomed a virtual presentation of the NWMO’s Reconciliation journey at their December meeting.

The NWMO’s Jessica Perritt, Section Manager for Indigenous Knowledge and Reconciliation, and Bob Watts, Vice-President of Indigenous Relations, gather the sacred bundle at the ceremony formalizing the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy.

Bob Watts, Vice-President of Indigenous Relations at the NWMO, Jessica Perritt, Section Manager of Indigenous Knowledge & Reconciliation and Greg Plain, Sr. Indigenous Engagement Advisor shared information about milestones including the NWMO’s formalization of a Reconciliation Policy and how that policy is being implemented within the organization through education and learning.

In October 2019, the NWMO formalized and blessed its Reconciliation Policy through a Traditional Sunrise Ceremony that included members of the NWMO’s executive team, Board of Directors, the NWMO’s Council of Elders and Youth and a number of special guests.

The NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy recognizes historical wrongs in Canada’s past and the need to create a better future by addressing the challenges of today. The policy makes a commitment to contribute to Reconciliation through all the NWMO’s work by co-creating a shared future built on rights, equity and well-being. This means that every department in the organization has a role in implementing the Reconciliation policy as the NWMO works to implement Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term storage of used nuclear fuel. 

The presentation at the CLC meeting acknowledged the advice and guidance the NWMO has received from the Council of Elders and Youth and Indigenous communities involved in the site selection process, which has been instrumental in advancing its Reconciliation journey. The Council of Elders and Youth is an independent advisory body that advises NWMO on the application of Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous issues and aspects of Reconciliation that can enhance and maintain respectful relationships with Indigenous communities.

 “It is important that we acknowledge and recognize the wisdom we are so privileged to receive from Indigenous knowledge holders. It has strengthened the foundation of the organization. They have pushed us to really stand behind the words we say, and sometimes it has been uncomfortable, but working through that has allowed us to grow and challenge the status quo.  Challenging the status quo is vital to NWMO’s success,” said Mr. Watts, Vice President of Indigenous Relations.

A big part of the NWMO’s work in this area for 2020 has been developing a baseline to ensure contributions to Reconciliation be measured and reported on an annual basis. The NWMO also developed a Reconciliation assessment tool to assess policies and procedures through a Reconciliation lens in order to operationalize its commitment within governing documents. The evaluations were dialogue-driven and focused on identifying opportunities for improvement. This year, the Reconciliation assessment tool was applied to four policies, six procedures, six frameworks and various departmental workplans. These assessments will continue into 2021 and beyond to help continue to embed Reconciliation and interweave Indigenous knowledge into the organization’s culture.

The South Bruce CLC expressed interest in learning more about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada and learning more about Reconciliation. They also would like to expand this learning to the community more broadly and asked for the NWMO’s support in this learning journey. Mr. Watts committed to provide this support and suggested that, when the time is right, it will be important for South Bruce to learn directly from its Indigenous neighbours. Watts and Plain also committed to support South Bruce in fostering these relationships. Plain works directly with the neighbouring Indigenous communities.

Perritt, highlighted the importance of being patient with ourselves and to remember the teaching of love as we embark on our individual Reconciliation journeys.

“This work isn’t easy; it challenges us to examine our different identities and how privilege and unconscious bias influence our actions and worldview. We need to create space to be open and brave, so we build on our understanding and challenge ourselves, “said Perritt. “My roles in Reconciliation as a mother, as a granddaughter of residential school survivors and as an employee of the NWMO will be different. It will require different levels of work in applying the seven grandfather teachings of love, trust, sharing, honesty, humility, respect, and wisdom.”

The key message of this session was to build an understanding of what Reconciliation means and how we all have a role in advancing Reconciliation in Canada.

“By sharing the NWMO’s understanding of Reconciliation and how we are implementing it through policy creates that space of learning and supporting each other in our individual and collective Reconciliation journeys. By working together and applying patience and respect, we can hopefully move the needle forward to create a more inclusive Canada,” expressed Watts.

About the NWMO

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The organization was created in 2002 by Canada’s nuclear electricity producers. Ontario Power Generation, NB Power and Hydro-Québec are the founding members, and along with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, fund the NWMO’s operations. The NWMO operates on a not-for-profit basis and derives our mandate from the federal Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.