June 5, 2015

Community Connections: Compliance Management and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

Aboriginal communities in Canada have deep cultural histories, with traditional values, laws, and identities that are important to community members and those working with them. Developing an understanding and respect for these histories is a crucial prerequisite to working effectively with Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal communities and the companies who work with them or for them need practical solutions for building stronger and more transparent relationships.

Given the important and growing role Aboriginal peoples play in Canada’s economy, ComplyWorks has been developing a system that helps both communities and corporations collaborate. We started with a series of pilot projects in British Columbia that are using compliance management to help communities manage their own economic affairs, while providing a transparent platform for corporations to build better relationships with the communities they operate in. We sat down with Dr. Justin Bull, our Director of Aboriginal Business Solutions, and asked him some questions about Aboriginal communities and compliance management, as well as how the pilot projects are going so far.

What is Aboriginal compliance management?
We see Aboriginal compliance management, at its core, as a process of relationship management. The relationships can be simple, like a community hiring a contractor to perform services on its behalf. But they can also be complex, like tracking terms and conditions inside legal agreements to ensure all parties are compliant. Managing these relationships requires tools and procedures to clearly communicate expectations and monitor performance over time. Aboriginal communities hire contractors, work with suppliers, and manage their own employees in the same way as any other organization. From that perspective, compliance management for Aboriginal communities is no different than in other sectors of the Canadian economy. At its core, compliance management is about the relationship between two parties, with the classic example being an employer and a contractor.
What have you done so far to incorporate compliance management into Aboriginal communities?
We have spent the last two years travelling across British Columbia, talking to First Nations communities about how compliance management can support their efforts to increase the frequency of and participate more effectively in economic opportunities. We’ve launched a series of pilot projects using existing ComplyWorks solutions in new ways. The response from communities has been great. They see tremendous value in using a third-party system for tracking contractors, relationships with industry partners, and activities on their traditional territories. Some pilot communities are looking to manage their own contractors. Others are developing cultural awareness orientations and using engagement tools to ensure that people working on their traditional territory are aware of the history, meaning, and importance of the land to First Nations communities.
How can compliance management benefit Aboriginal communities?
We’ve found several areas where compliance management adds value. It has provided a way for communities to identify and manage contractors and suppliers working on their traditional territories. If these contractors work directly for the community, we are able to register them in an online system and start tracking any requirements defined by Aboriginal leaders. The information collected can help a community manage contractors over the long term, ensuring administrative and managerial continuity over time. Another major benefit is the improvement of internal administration. For example, ComplyWorks is working with communities to develop “job banks”. We can load the contact information of Aboriginal individuals, their skills, training, certificates, and insurance records, all of which helps connect them with available work. We can also help communities ensure that its own employees receive adequate training by delivering a variety of courses online, from bear awareness to electrical safety.
What is an example of compliance management in Aboriginal communities?
Some of our pilot communities want to track Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and other agreements they have with industry. We’ve developed solutions where an agreement and its terms and conditions can be uploaded, measured, and monitored. Communities have expressed interest in tracking a variety of things; from employment opportunities available, to harvest volumes, to steps taken to manage environmental impacts. This functionality adds value to both the community and the corporate partners they are working with. By essentially translating the terms and conditions of contracts into defined requirements to be monitored over time, both parties benefit from added trust, assurance, and transparency. We’re also able to send out timely alerts and notifications in case either party falls out of compliance with its obligations. By proactively identifying gaps in contractual performance, communities and corporations are able to pinpoint and manage problems before an overlooked item becomes a serious issue.
Cultural awareness and sensitivity training are two topics that come up often when working with Aboriginal communities. What role do these play in compliance management?
When we are talking with Aboriginal communities, the idea of cultural understanding and respect is always a key concern. Communities simply want their history, values, and culture understood. My favourite analogy is to think about starting a new job in a different country. Before you go, you want to make sure that you’ve taken the time to understand what it means to work in a new place, what’s important to the local people, and learn something about the history that surrounds you. The perspectives of Aboriginal communities in Canada are no different: they want to be acknowledged, understood, and respected. Compliance management can help achieve this goal by allowing the delivery of fully customized, Nation-specific cultural orientations. We help communities track who has taken a course and whether they might need to refresh their cultural orientation on an annual basis.
Do corporations realize and acknowledge the importance of being culturally aware?
We have seen a lot of interest from the corporate sector in using compliance solutions to build stronger cultural connections with Aboriginal communities. Successful projects are those that take the time to identify and respect the concerns of communities. Corporations are taking steps – like ensuring all their employees and contractors take a cultural awareness course – to strengthen their connection with local people. Moving forward, companies are moving from generic “Aboriginal Awareness” courses, to highly customized orientations and courses that deliver relevant and timely information about the Nation they are working with.
How else is the corporate sector able to use compliance management to improve their Aboriginal engagement efforts?
Beyond culture, we see real promise in using compliance management to support the Aboriginal procurement targets of corporations. In the natural resource sector, many organizations are looking to ensure that local communities share in the benefits of major projects and economic activities. They’ve set up robust programs to ensure that Aboriginal contractors are able to fully participate in the procurement process. At ComplyWorks, we’ve developed solutions that formalize and monitor these efforts. For example, if a company wants to procure at least 15% of all work from Aboriginal contractors, we can set up questionnaires and tracking systems to ensure they do just that.

Join Dr. Justin Bull on June 16, 2015 10:00 AM PDT / 11:00 AM MDT / 1:00 PM EDT to explore this topic on a more in-depth level in our free Learning Series webinar: Building Strong Relationships with Aboriginal Communities in Canada.