The NWMO continues Reconciliation journey

Reconciliation matters. As Canadians, it ensures we learn from and address historic wrongs, and we work together to co-create a better future.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is committed to continuing our Reconciliation journey. We know that working with Indigenous peoples, learning from Indigenous Knowledge and applying learnings to our work are critical to successfully implementing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel.

On National Indigenous Peoples Day, we acknowledge the important contributions that Indigenous peoples and teachings have had on the project. And we renew our commitment to Reconciliation – working to address historic wrongs and build a better future together with Indigenous peoples.

The NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy was released in 2019 and is one of the ways we hold ourselves accountable to this commitment. On this National Indigenous Peoples Day, the NWMO is pleased to report on the progress we have made and the work we still have ahead of us.

Last year, a Reconciliation Baseline Evaluation Summary Report completed by Reciprocal Consulting, an independent award-winning and leading Indigenous-run consulting firm, reviewed the implementation of our Reconciliation Policy and found we have made significant progress. In particular, the report highlighted how the NWMO’s commitment to ensuring all employees receive cultural awareness and Reconciliation training has helped employees along their own journeys and in ensuring they apply a Reconciliation lens to their work. This training continues to evolve and expand with the goal of our employees’ understanding and awareness to grow and develop.

“I have found that the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy opens up conversations with Indigenous communities,” said Lise Morton, Vice-President of Site Selection at the NWMO. “It is not just about the organization making this statement. It is about each and every one of us taking those steps together. As a team, if we do not acknowledge the historical wrongs and work towards a better future, we cannot begin to build a solid foundation with Indigenous communities, and our engagement would be disingenuous.”

As of June 2021, 95 per cent of NWMO staff have completed cultural awareness training, 95 per cent have completed our ReconciliACTION training (or Reconciliation training Part 1), and 50 per cent have completed Reconciliation training Part 2. Reconciliation training Part 3 will be piloted in fall 2021, as our Indigenous Relations training program continues to evolve, as requested by NWMO staff.

Ms. Morton, who joined the NWMO in March 2021, said her participation in these training sessions, “… provided a whole new perspective as I continue on my personal Reconciliation journey.”

NWMO is also working to assess its internal documents and policies to ensure they are living up to the ideals of our Reconciliation Policy, and thus far, more than 20 of those reviews have been completed.

“The Reconciliation Policy is critical to the work that myself and my team are doing, not just with Indigenous communities, but also within non-Indigenous communities. It is our hope that our project might strengthen and enhance, in some small way, the relationship between these communities,” Morton added.

The baseline report also identified areas and opportunities for improvement. One key point was the need to ensure those very communities being worked with are better included in the journey and, another, that NWMO did more to ensure the Reconciliation Policy was incorporated across the organization and embedded in its culture.

Monthly Sharing Circles, which bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees to learn from one another, is one new way the NWMO is working to better incorporate Reconciliation activities across the organization. The organization has also launched an internal channel, called ReconciliACTION, for employees using Microsoft Teams, specifically focused on sharing news, thoughts and milestones related to Reconciliation, interweaving Indigenous Knowledge in our work, and sharing Indigenous news and culture. NWMO employees also share their own thoughts and actions towards Reconciliation and is working toward two Reconciliation events in potential siting communities.

The NWMO knows that Reconciliation requires ongoing work and accountability and its policy seeks to ensure that it continually evaluates and readjusts. It is a personal journey for each employee, and the organization’s role is to facilitate that personal work that then helps employees incorporate that knowledge into everything they do.

“Status quo has not served Indigenous peoples and will not serve them well in the future. If we are acting in a manner that is consistent with the status quo, we will not be successful as an organization. A 100 per cent, we will not be successful. That is our challenge – to change the way we are doing business to prepare for success through Reconciliation,” said Bob Watts, Vice-President of Indigenous Relations and Strategic Programs at the NWMO.

About the NWMO:  The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term storage of Canada’s used nuclear fuel in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

We are implementing Canada’s plan to safely contain and isolate used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository. The plan is based on years of public input, Indigenous Knowledge, international scientific consensus, and best practices from around the world.

Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2023, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Ignace area and South Bruce, both in Ontario.

Transparent and accountable, the NWMO works in close co-operation with communities, all levels of government, national and international regulators, Indigenous peoples, industry, academia, and civil society organizations.