Is Reconciliation the next frontier in diversity strategies?

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And no.

Yes, in that I believe that Reconciliation can be a very helpful lens through which we can analyze current organizational diversity strategies and then design better ones.

No, in that I also believe that Reconciliation is not a competitive tool which organizations can use as just another way to attract and retain people, and business. (That’ll probably be the outcome, sure, but the commitment must be to something greater than that).

I believe Reconciliation is the everyday work that is done as we try to change a relationship that has been imbalanced and fraught with conflict. I believe Reconciliation is actually the really hard work of taking a good look at how things have been designed, and how that design impacts people negatively–both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Now some might say “Well, isn’t that what diversity strategies are all about anyway? About looking at how a system needs to be changed to recognize how it excludes people, and take measures to be more inclusive?”

Yes, it does. But Reconciliation takes it one step further and recognizes the foundation upon which Canada was built, recognizes how those foundations have been recreated within our institutions, our schools, our businesses, our clubs, and how those foundations are….I’m gonna say it…get ready…based on a foundation of cultural superiority that used colonization as a tool to create a system designed to benefit a particular group of people (European settler ancestors, I’m looking at you).

Yikes. That was kinda heavy wasn’t it. And before you get all up in arms calling me a naive do-gooder (thank you, and hardly–read my story), or maybe you’re not thinking that, or at least you’re open to thinking about things just a little bit differently, and I’ve got you here and you want to follow along with me….

As I stated earlier: Reconciliation is another way of looking at things, and figuring out how to make those things better.

We have never done Reconciliation before. There is no roapmap to tell us how to do it right, and we have no way of knowing if we’re doing it wrong. Except for if we don’t do it at all. I mean, the current system is hardly working all that well, is it?

Think of it these questions, for a start: When we talk about women and diversity, do we recognize Aboriginal women within that diversity? Are we recognizing how Aboriginal women in many Indigenous culture groups had great power before colonization, and are we creating ways to reignite that power within our clubs and organizations? Are we recognizing the impact that the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) Inquiry may be having on the Indigenous women–and the Indigenous men–with whom we work?

I don’t outright have the answers to these two questions. And I know these are overwhelming things to think about. And these questions don’t cover the entire realm of things that need to be considered when we consider Reconciliation.

But Reconciliation can help with this, and go one step further. Reconciliation can help non-Indigenous Canadians locate their blind spots, and take actions to correct them. Indigenous people can start to have their history and experiences validated and recognized–something for which they have been fighting for years. Reconciliation can be a framework through which we pivot, even just a little bit at first, and look at things in a new way. It can be a way to open up and start the conversations around changing the way we do things around here, even if those conversations are really, really tough.

So yes, Reconciliation is the next frontier in diversity strategies, in that it broadens ways of thinking to be more diverse.

But only if it is honoured as the tough, challenging, enlightening and rewarding work that it it meant to be, otherwise, it will become a no.

Interested in doing more? Work with me to make Reconciliation a part of your organizational strategies.

Want to learn along with me? Follow my How to be a Better Settler series.

Get in touch anytime with questions or queries.