8% of our Canadian workforce self-identifies as Indigenous
We reach out to more than 100, and engage 80+ Indigenous communities on a regular and ongoing basis,
37 have set a mutually-agreed upon engagement process
24 communities are working with us to integrate traditional land use into forestry planning processes
- Our approach to Indigenous people is built on community engagement, increasing workforce participation and business developments.
Forests provide many spiritual, cultural, social, economic and environmental values to Indigenous Peoples. Our approach is to seek mutual benefits from the opportunities derived from the land and resources through community relationships, employment, education and training programs, business activity and economic opportunities.
Through mill and forest operations, sustainable forest management activities, engagement and consultation processes and business relationships, we work and engage with more than 80 communities on a regular basis, touching more than 100 Indigenous governments, communities and organizations in Canada.
In 2020, West Fraser set out formal commitments to relationships and consultation in an Indigenous Peoples' Policy.
We seek long-term, respectful relationships building trust through early engagement, inclusive dialogue and collaborative processes to better understand each other’s perspectives and priorities, working to achieve free, prior and informed consent, respecting traditional rights, and integrating the perspectives and traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples.
Highlights on Progress in 2020
Throughout our Canadian operations, we work with Indigenous-owned or operated businesses. We aim to increase the portion of Indigenous-owned vendors and contractors within our procurement, contracting and supplier providers. Our teams have identified several strategies to promote the participation of Indigenous businesses in the forest sector. West Fraser contracts with more than 60 Indigenous-owned or affiliated businesses in the communities where we operate, and has set formal or informal agreements or processes in place with 37 communities.
Our active team of personnel and Indigenous Liaisons in Western Canada lead consultation and engagement with more than 80 Indigenous communities. 24 communities are working with us to integrate traditional land use into forestry planning processes. Through COVID, consultation, community engagement and cultural learnings continued to be shared with Indigenous communities. Examples of some of our programs include community scholarships, participation in cultural camps, in ceremonial activities to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day at our facilities, and projects to understand the effect our activities may have on traditional Indigenous plants. We have also contributed to needed housing projects in some communities.
Workforce Strategy: Increase Indigenous employee representation through cultural understanding initiatives and worker training
In 2020, we surveyed our Canadian workforce, and 8% of our employees self-identified as Indigenous. Indigenous cultural awareness training is provided to employees participating in consultation and engagement with Indigenous communities, and we are looking to expand that training in our organization going forward. The Company also supports or provides several pre-employment and work readiness programs in our local communities. In 2020, our woods team coordinated a “Forestry 101” work readiness training program at Lubicon Lake Camp in Northern Alberta specifically for three local Indigenous communities. We also sponsor the Outland Youth Employment Program and First Nations Youth Training Program (FNYTP). These education, training and work opportunity programs for high school-aged Indigenous youth (OYEP) and young adults (FNYTP), both focus on land-based learning. OYEP works to engage local Elders to ensure youth feel culturally and spiritually supported in the programs.
Forest Management Perspectives
We recognize that Canada’s Indigenous Peoples have a special connection to the land through their culture and traditional use. Forest operations in Canada take place on Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands and traditional territories. West Fraser respects Indigenous Peoples’ property, tenure and use rights. Our practices and interactions are informed by the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are working together to achieve free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), which are explicitly part of the Company’s Indigenous Peoples' Policy.
West Fraser engages Indigenous communities to understand potential impacts to treaty and Aboriginal rights, and traditional uses, that may arise from our planned forest management operations in Alberta and British Columbia.
By consulting with Indigenous communities, our forestry teams and Indigenous liaisons focus on developing a solid understanding of the histories, cultures, values and development priorities of the communities. We identify opportunities to align community economic development initiatives with our business needs. We also support different community development projects, ranging from donations toward infrastructure, education, employment and training. Prior to development activity, we work with communities to conduct traditional cultural site visits and take steps to preserve identified important cultural and spiritual sites. We participate in consultation processes in support of the government fulfilling its duty to consult. We also seek to develop and maintain good relationships and, where possible, agreements with Indigenous groups that may be affected by our business activities.