[Podcast] 'Grow For Good™' S02 E12: How Canada is Facing its Tragic Indigenous History with Reconciliation Education’s Andrée Cazabon

Sage Levene

Sage Levene
Published June 03, 2021

Grow For Good Podcast art- White text that says Season 2 Episode 12 How Canada is Facing its Tragic Indigenous History with Reconciliation Education’s Andrée Cazabon on a dark purple background with tropical flowers

On this episode of the Grow For Good™ podcast, Jed sits down with the Director of Reconciliation Education, Andrée Cazabon.

Show Notes:

If you have any questions or suggestions for future guests, send an email to growforgood@moreycreative.com.

Read the episode transcript below.

Andrée Cazabon [Snippet]: I find having a social impact business a lot easier than that if it wasn't for the very reason that you're always motivated and your work is so much more meaningful.

Intro [Voiceover]: It's an age-old question. Can you do well by doing good? Welcome to the Grow For Good™ podcast, where we speak with leaders who strive to make a positive impact on the world. Here's the host of the Grow For Good™ podcast, Jed Morey.

Jed Morey: I don’t think there are rules of engagement on a podcast. Like, it’s okay to play favorites right? Because that’s what I’m about to do. When I first met Andrée Cazabon it was love at first Zoom call. Andrée is an award winning documentary filmmaker from my home country of Canada. We connected because she runs Reconciliation Education, an organization that creates and curates a series of bilingual online courses which promote a renewed relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canadians.

We cover a lot in this episode, beginning with her groundbreaking and frankly heartbreaking documentary, Third World Canada, a controversial film that made a lot of powerful people pretty uncomfortable. This led to a rewarding journey that culminated in the formation of Reconciliation Education and a partnership with First Nations University.

That’s all I’m going to say about this episode, except that I’m eternally grateful to have Andrée and her brilliant daughter in my life and that our teams are collaborating to bring her work to a wider audience in Canada and perhaps beyond. For this and so many more personal reasons, I’m delighted to introduce you to my friend Andrée Cazabon, who represents Grow For Good™ in every possible way.

JM: Welcome back to Grow For Good™. This is a very special episode, as you heard in the introduction. It's special for us on a lot of levels. First of all, our guest today is a friend and someone that our parent agency is fortunate to work for.

Andrée Cazabon is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who is now the director at Reconciliation Education, an organization that runs a series of bilingual online resources, which promote a renewed relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canadians. Andrée, so good to see you. Thank you so much for coming on the show, I really appreciate it.

Andrée Cazabon: It's an honor Jed, thank you. And thank you for all the work you do with our company. Thank you.

JM: Just getting warmed up and I can't wait. It's going to be an exciting few years together. Andrée before we get into the work that you're doing today, I wanted to dig a little bit into your personal journey. So much of your story and so much of the story of Reconciliation Education today is tied to your history as a documentary filmmaker. so I'd love to learn a little bit more about that. Because I think it's a really big part of the lens through which you see the work that needs to be done and it’s a very powerful medium to communicate a lot of these efforts. So can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up in Canada and then ultimately how you got into filmmaking?

AC: Absolutely. I'm a French Canadian who grew up in the Ottawa region. My work as a filmmaker stemmed from my passion for writing and I started making my first film for CBC when I was 21, and I was at the National Film Board at the age of 22, so they called me the baby of the NFB so I feel like I grew up in film and in many ways—my films have been for national broadcast in Canada, that would be at the CBC and some of our French networks, as well as working alongside the National Film Board of Canada who produced a few of my films.

And my films focused primarily on social justice issues, children's rights, youth rights. I felt that I was well versed in issues relating to youth at risk, I worked on the Children's Rights Bill with the senate, and I would often be called upon in the media to comment on social injustices or equity matters around children and youths.

Whether that be homeless youth or particularly youth who grew up in the child welfare system. So I thought that I was well versed in some of these social issues, so it was a shocker to me to discover the Third World living conditions, and also the Fourth World and Fifth World living conditions hidden from view in Canada around Indigenous nations, so that was a big turning point in my life.

JM: I believe what you're referencing is the film Third World Canada is sort of where this bridge occurred. We're going to talk a little bit about the film because honestly, it's one of the most powerful and I should say difficult films that I've probably ever watched.

But you made—I think if I read this correctly—you made four films in addition to doing the work with the CBC along the way, you made four documentary films even before this. Do you feel the Third World Canada's is really what put you; I don't want to say put you on the map, but really codified you as a true documentary filmmaker?

AC: Well interestingly Jed, it was actually my films before that I was nominated for Gemini and received prizes at film festivals and where perhaps I carved out a little place for myself as a documentary filmmaker in Canada, and Third World Canada was certainly my own personal growing point, but the title itself was so insulting to my country that it was actually a film that we had to self-distribute and work directly with Indigenous communities to have it shown.

So for example in Canada, we have the Assembly of First Nations so it's a bit of the national body of Indigenous leaders, and they worked very hard with us to rent a hall right across from Parliament Hill and have a premiere and have it shown there, and it was a real shocker to Canada. We had some prominent politicians there and the youths from the community flew down to be part of that screening.

But if it wasn’t for the support of Indigenous People, Third World Canada would have been tucked away, because the film was insulting. Because it was really about what was wrong with Canada as opposed to the usual narrative which is, what is wrong with Indigenous Peoples, which is a very comfortable story to tell.

So this was one of those films where—I mean I was even told to not release the film, that it would put my reputation and career, that I would never recover career-wise from a film like that. And this is from some really high-level political folks that discouraged me from coming out with that film. So in a way it was a bit of a leap for me because I had to put behind my career and my own journey as a filmmaker and really focus on the most important thing, which is to bring awareness and education to Canada, towards moving the country to a better place.

So that became part of the sacrifice, in a way, that I made and part of that was to actually—I made a commitment to not make films for 10 years after that film so that I could learn directly from Indigenous People and really honor that film, because if you're going to come out with such a strong statement, you can't just be off making another film a year later. And as well, it prevented anybody from saying my career would be at risk because I was already choosing a mini, little 10-year retirement anyway. So that way I had nothing to lose in a way.

JM: Andrée I want to get into—obviously you know Grow For Good™is primarily a business show about organizations that are doing good in the world—but I was so, I want to say wrecked by your film. But in a thoughtful way, not in a despondent—I didn't feel despair, necessarily, and I think that's a really important distinction to make. I felt energized to learn more, do more, and it came from this deep understanding of you spending the time to be accepted enough to put forward a very authentic and very difficult narrative.

So I do want to spend a little bit more time on the film because I think it's such an important inflection point that people should understand and if we can encourage people to look at clips of the film, to even see the film, to try and find it, I think that's important as well. So the backstory here is that you were able to gain acceptance and admittance to tell the story of a particular family at Kitchen—is it [Jed mispronounces] Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, is that correct?

AC: Very close Jed. That's very good. It took me a whole plane ride to learn how to pronounce it. It's like Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug.

JM: Okay, so this is a territory, an Indigenous territory in Northern Ontario, correct?

AC: Mhmm.

JM: That was sort of forgotten, for lack of a better word. It was just sort of there and forgotten, and as long as people couldn't see it, they weren't impacted by it. Tell us the story of this particular people and the territory, and tell us about your film.

AC: So, Third World Canada was a documentary that was made with the community. So in fact, they have legal rights over the film, and at any time that they feel it's time to kind of pause the film, they can request that. And they also were my teachers in the process.

And so part of the film was also about me learning about my own history as a settler and understanding the original treaties which were supposed to be about living together, sharing resources, sharing solutions, living side by side in coexistence. And that's certainly Canada's story before it became Canada ,that was our story. And with time we broke those treaties and essentially took all of the resources and all of the land.

And so, the nation of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug or KI for short, was forced to live on this tiny little pocket of land. So one of the things that the US does a lot better than Canada is that you can fit all of the reserves in Canada on one single Tribal Nation in the US.

So that was a surprise to find out just how little land Indigenous People have in one of the largest countries in the world. And so this nation lives in the Boreal forest, it's a fly in community. It costs more money than when I went from Canada to Alice Springs, Australia in terms of flight costs. It's easier for me to go to Australia than to visit KI, so they're incredibly isolated. The nation was essentially starved into signing agreements with Canada. It was understood in a translation that it was about sharing resources and a nation-to-nation relationship. But in fact, what the document really was in English was about basically taking the land.

So, this nation today lives in extreme poverty. They have over 200 people on the waitlist for housing. Some homes struggle with drinking waters and this community where social workers—First Nation social workers brought me into—was actually the richest in that territory of 30 nations. So we really went to the granddaddy of them all to make this film. There are other nations that are in Fifth World living conditions. So that's a point that we had to make twice in the film because it gets missed by the reader in terms of the shock of the living conditions in a country like Canada.

And so the film, looked at the impact of one suicide that leaves behind eight brothers and children who are impacted by suicide, and how a community with 200 people on the waitlist is it's struggling with: where do we house them, how do we care for them, how do we love them, how do we give them the future that they deserve.

And so from, one nation, one family, and one little boy really who's five years old at the time of filming, we start to see firsthand, those unjust colonial policies. In Canada we often believe that we're not struggling with racism or that we're such a fighter for human rights and so it's a real shocker for us when we watch this film to realize, “Wow, we have a long way to go in our own backyard.”

And so the film was that eye-opener, and I'm glad that you feel the hope because what you discover is what a beautiful resilient people the nation is. And what's broken is perhaps the policies and not so much the people. And so that's something that we can all fix, that we can all get behind. We can actually, we can fix policies, we can do better, we can honor those living treaties, and so the hope of the film is that people have this awakening when they see the film and realize, “Yeah let's roll up our sleeves, we can all play our part, whether it's in the workplace or the education system.”

And also the beauty of the people comes through. Years later we had some reconciliation trips where we actually brought Canadians to be hosted in the families. So we literally would have film screenings in the community, which was one of our most important screenings of the film. And so people would be hosted by the community and learn directly from the community about reconciliation and create ties and friendships that were long-lasting. So those were also some of the hopeful things, but clearly the message was how important it is to educate and to raise awareness about the role that we can all play in changing this narrative that is in our country here in Canada.

JM: There were so many parts of that film that stuck with me. One was the love, the struggle, and the resilience, on display from the children's aunt. She was just so perfectly human and rational but loving about the entire situation. Somebody who just has the most extraordinary circumstances thrust upon her in so many ways: from colonialism, to the immediate family tragedy and how she dealt with that with the kids first, even some of the difficult decisions that she had to make.

And then the kids themselves. If you don't love these kids watching this film, and realize they’re just kids, they're the same as kids everywhere, but their worldview will be so different than everyone else's because of just the extreme circumstances that they're in.

I wanted to spend some time on that film. I know, again, this is a business podcast, but it's one of those things where the business of your business is brought so much more to the forefront and is made so much more powerful by your brilliance as a filmmaker. And not just the artistry but the very delicate empathic touch that you had in making that. It's not patronizing, like I said, it's devastating. You did not patronize anybody in that film. There's none of the “mystical cloak” that usually overhangs a lot of treatments about Indigenous Peoples. It is, I thought, just perfect, just beautiful and perfect.So this is my opportunity to thank you first of all, for doing it, for just doing that work, but then staying with it is really so above and beyond.

So let's pivot with that then and talk about the movement in Canada because I think this might actually be interesting and different to an American audience—which is you know our primary audience here—in that there is an effort in Canada called Truth and Reconciliation, which is sort of the genesis of the organization, but something that we need to understand, to kind of reconcile our history. It's not the only country to do this. I know that South Africa has a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I believe New Zealand does as well, but Canada came into that movement. Can you explain exactly what this commission or what the act and the movement are in Canada?

AC: Yeah so, the Truth and Reconciliation, you know, as a Canadian, I would love to tell you the story that through our own growth and maturity as a young country, we learn from our mistakes and we realize that we can do better and we need to honor our treaty partner, Indigenous People with what this country was built upon. But unfortunately, this is not a movement that was begun by Canadian people, although now it is being embraced by many and many are joining the reconciliation movement and initiatives in the country.

The movement began from the courage and resilience and vision of Indigenous People who had survived residential school—so a very similar experience, but in the US it's called the boarding school system—where the survivors of those schools won the largest civil action suit in the world. And so they brought the country to court to face the injustice and to begin this reconciliation process. So part of that settlement was about having a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as we've seen in South Africa, Guatemala and Australia.

And so that's really where it began, was from the survivors of those residential schools, and the impacts of that. And so the Truth and Reconciliation Commission listened to the survivors for about seven years throughout the country, and from that stemmed some recommendations about how to move forward. And a large part of them relate to education, the true history of Canada.

So we've seen as part of these reconciliation efforts for example, our museum of histories have changed the narrative that settlers came upon lands that were not occupied and settled here in good ways. So we look at the history of Canada, not just some settlers arriving, but the amazing innovations and brilliance and sophisticated political systems that lived here and in fact inspired the US and Canada in their own process. And so we're now going to look deeper and realizing, you know what was here, what is here, and the future of reconciliation is about building a better, more just society.

JM: Andrée can I pull you back to one particular point because I think that listeners would benefit from a nuance of the way you phrase something. When you talk about the survivors of the schools—if you don't know anything about the residential school system here in the US or Canada, that might sound like an odd way to phrase it, and it's not.

AC: Absolutely.

JM: Can you just unpack that a little bit?

AC: So, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada, stems from the survivors of the residential schools bringing to justice—so to the courtrooms—what actually happened in those residential schools. So part of the truth part, before we get to reconciliation, is that truth-telling piece. Part of that movement was educating the whole country really, and the world as to what actually took place in Canada.

The residential school system sounds like an education project, and unfortunately, it wasn't, because most of the graduates came out with a grade two/grade three education level. It was an initiative—our country knowing that it couldn't win a war if it actually went to war with Indigenous People had to come up with other ways to colonize and essentially it was a bit of a land grab to say the least, and so part of the residential schools was about forcing children out of their homes. So police officers would show up in planes or buses and be carted off.

Like literally some communities, every child over the age of four was stolen from the community, sometimes brought into another province, would lose their language, their ability to return home, to reconnect with their family. And essentially what would happen was, you had now a community of heartbroken parents. So if you could imagine a community that their worldview is that a child has as much value as an adult, which is a very unusual concept—so when you take away all of the children in a community or in a nation that honors children so much and you break the hearts of parents or grandparents and aunties and uncles, and you can literally not hear a single child in the community, except the few that were hidden in the bush by some very fast parents, you break a people, and then it doesn't really matter what happens after that.

So the nations were heartbroken, and this system went on for 160 years, so it wasn't like a four year bad chapter in our history book. This was systemic, it went on, and it was meant to remove as it said at the time the, “Indian in the child,” and to essentially, not only whitewash Indigenous children but to remove their identity. And why is their identity important? Well inherently Indigenous People have the rights to the land. And so part of solving the problem of building a country upon broken treaties was, what do you do moving forward and what do you do with all the lands? So that was part of the vision of the schools, to decimate a people.

And it just speaks to the amazing, innovative and creative survival. And the spirit of those nations, because 160 years later they never succeeded. So it's time now for Canada to say let's come up with a better dream, and let's come up with a better country, so that's what the Truth and Reconciliation is about. Is telling that truth and moving forward in a very hopeful way.

JM: So, in the US there's an organization, I think it's called Facing History. It's that truth piece that you're talking about, it's about, okay, “How can we go back and honestly look at our history and begin to own some of our actions within the context of what's happened to marginalized peoples in this country.” There is no real reconciliation effort, the other half of that equation in the US does not exist.

In Canada, let's get into the work of your organization, where you are really boots on the ground for lack of a better metaphor in actually connecting the truth piece to the reconciliation piece and bringing people, businesses, individuals, employees of companies, just as many people as you can get into this process. Can you tell us about how Reconciliation Education, your organization is structured and what the purpose and mission is? And then tell us a little bit about the journey, how you go about bridging this gap.

AC: The organization Reconciliation Education is a joint effort, it's a partnership with First Nations University of Canada, which is the oldest Indigenous university in the country. And they have been holding that space for so long for so many of us. And so they'd already put together a fairly extensive Reconciliation Certificate. And so the work that had begun with the film Third World Canada in terms of creating an education, week-long immersive experience for the classroom and the education sector bridged with First Nations University.

So not only were we able to transform this resource under the guidance and leadership of First Nations University, but to also now bring it to the workplace. And as well, the work solidified, you know, I had mentioned earlier that I'd made a 10-year commitment to not make films. Well now 10 years was up and with this relationship with First Nations University we had to play some catch-up, so I wanted to make four short films and so this reconciliation film series was also part of that work.

JM: So, 4 Seasons.

AC: So, 4 Seasons of Reconciliation was a four-part film series that brought together Indigenous creators, and the resources to create a deeper understanding. And so, as a companion piece to Third World Canada, other films were created. So, under the leadership of First Nations University, one film called Economic Reconciliation honored the calls to action that relate to the initiatives intended for the workplace. And so then that film morphed into an online course for the workplace and it's really taken the financial sector by storm in some way, because now there was a tool that could be brought inside a workplace that could do that truth-telling piece within a workplace setting.

And so it's been an absolutely amazing journey and I really feel that that first plane ride in the community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and the friendship and the trust and the leadership of that community investing and teaching this white filmmaker who came along from down south. And I hope that you know it does the community and the nation proud in terms of that investment in my own education that, now with First Nations University of Canada, we can bring this into the workplace.

JM: Can you tell us a bit about First Nations University? I actually don't know much about their structure. I know it broadly as a university, is it fair to kind of align it with what we would consider Historically Black Colleges in the United States, is it the same type of framework? Can non-Indigenous folks apply, go to the school, can they take classes there, audit classes? Like how does the university fit within the greater education and structure of Canada?

AC: So First Nations University of Canada is located right in the heart of the country, in the prairies in Saskatchewan in Regina. It also happens to be the province that closed the last residential school in 1996.

JM: 1996?

AC: Yes, that was our last residential school and so that province has a lot of real champions and folks that have been looking for solutions against colonization, so part of that solution has been about having their own education center. And so they have an Indigenous worldview, and even ceremonies take place on campus, you know pipe ceremonies and elders and Indigenous languages play a large influence in the university. But the university is open to all learners, so you have a lot of folks who are coming from other countries, other races who feel very comfortable studying there, and you have a lot of white Canadians as well who are studying there. So there's a mix of international students, local Indigenous students.

I'm proud to say my own daughter is there studying business and finance, so it's the same curriculum in many ways that you would have in a business degree, let's say, in her case or social work or communications, but many of the perspectives and the Indigenous worldview is infused in the content.

So it's a very unique place. They also have continuing education and professional development, as well, so it's a real honor. It could be similar to some of the Black colleges, there's also some Indigenous universities and colleges in the USA, and we see them, for example in New Zealand, there's almost a sister university in some ways to First Nations University. So there are other places around the world that are Indigenous-led and the leadership is Indigenous, so that makes a big difference as well in the learning.

JM: Is it okay for us to talk about how much my team loves your daughter?

AC: [Laughing]

JM: Is that okay to say on a podcast? That's all right, right?

AC: Absolutely.

JM: So, getting back into some of the influence over the corporate structure that your courses can have. We often talk about doing the work to implement change when we speak to organizations and companies that are purpose-driven. And when your work involves corporations, there's always a fear that there's someone on the other side that's just sort of checking a box for liability purposes or, you know, feeling the pressure to submit some sort of regulatory document that covers them.

Like in sustainability, we often talk about trying to avoid greenwashing and in justice work we talk about a great deal of performative lip service that occurs, particularly now in the height of what we'll call just this post-George Floyd era, where we’re talking about a lot of DEI, a lot of justice work that's trying to be kind of jammed into corporate cultures.

And then there are some organizations that are trying to do this work in a really thoughtful way. Can you give us an example of a company that you've worked with that is really “doing the work,” that is doing this in a thoughtful manner and engaging with Rec Ed in a meaningful way?

AC: Well so far, we've had the honor of working with two of the largest banks in the country. So in our country we call them the five big banks and so two out of the five big banks is a pretty good impact in terms of reaching a large number of people.

We've seen companies like the World Bank of Canada, The Bank of Montreal, companies like Deloitte, and they've brought this course as part of the mandatory training and also gone a step further and created initiatives as well around it. For example, Deloitte has a reconciliation action plan very much inspired actually by the private sector in Australia. So we have companies in Australia that have reconciliation action plans with some real, measurable, markers, whether it's around diversity in the boardroom, procurement, vendor relationships. Quantas for example will have a week where they also honor Indigenous authors and films, and the magazine stories are covering that. And they'll also have Indigenous artists literally paint airplanes. And when I had the chance to meet with Reconciliation Australia I was really surprised by that. It gave me a sneak peek of what might be coming in Canada in a few years.

JM: Did you help them build this framework, Andrée? Or these are things that once they've gone through some of the education that you're helping put together for them, they’re taking this and they’re going with it on their own? Or do you stay involved in the process? Do you help kind of push them off the ledge a little bit? How does that work with the organization?

AC: Well, we do our best to have a relational approach, even though we have an online resource. So part of that relational approach is not just shipping them a pair of shoes, like Amazon, and then saying I hope you like green and size 7, but really being involved with them.

So we look at 4 Seasons of Reconciliation as something—every season can we do a little bit more than the last one around reconciliation. So we are connected to Indigenous leaders and folks in DEI across the country, so we've heard some stories that work, some that don't work, different examples. So we help them if they reach out to us.

It's part of the work that we do, it's part of our mandate. So whether that's you know, sometimes I'll do presentations to their board of directors around Indigenous representation at the executive level or procurement of Indigenous companies and policies, and sometimes it's just sharing stories of different things that have worked to highlight works in reconciliation. So we are always very honored when we do participate in that work and we'll connect them to Indigenous business leaders from across the country and Indigenous organizations. So playing a bit of a connecter role in some ways, and really encouraging them to see this learning as a first step along the way.

And you know what, we aim to do with the resource is close that gap where people who don't know they need to know are now finally learning about the need to know. And once people have that awakening, and especially if you can reach their intellects and their spirit and their hearts, it just transforms them into understanding, “Wow. I actually want to learn more about this. I want to take the next step.” But sometimes it's always the people who've already drank the Kool-Aid who show up at events, whether it be anti-racism or diversity, or in Canada's case reconciliation with Indigenous People.

They usually look around the room and go, “Well where are the people who need to know about this?” So that's the small but the hopefully critical piece that the course can play in an organization and also equalize the learning that everybody's missed in their education journey. Because of course, Canadians have not learned this in school and we're seeing a huge transformation in the education system. But certainly, this is one step of many.

But without that learning whenever you have an initiative, whether it's bringing a clean drinking water project to a nation—not having done that identity work as a settler for example, or understanding the deeper issues sometimes can make that work very meaningless and very much feel like a checkbox, when in fact it could be relational and meaningful. So I think that's an important first step and we'd love to be part of that work that is already underway in many places.

JM: You just reminded me of a conversation we had with another amazing women named Megha Desai, who runs a foundation that empowers women in the United States but also India. And the Desai Foundation will go into these communities and she had a similar journey where she recognized, through the story of a very remote tribal region in India, where an organization helicoptered in and gave them potable water and then flew right out. And when they went back and interviewed some of the members of the community, they actually discovered that the women of the community—because it's a very patriarchal society there—the women in the community were upset with that because of part of their experience, identity and escape was that long journey to walk and get water. And now that that was eliminated, it was creating different social pressures that were actually difficult for the women of that particular tribal region to handle.

If you don't go there, if you don't do the work, if you don't have the experience, if you don't have the framework and the lens that you have for example, by doing that work, it's very difficult to just helicopter in with these one solution fits all type projects. So I appreciate what you're saying about that.

Let's talk about the first step of a company getting involved with you. A company approaches you and says, “We want to do this, we want to be involved, how do we start, what do we do, what does that process look like?” Or as you would say, what does that process [Jed is pronouncing it like pro-cess] look like?

AC: [Laughing] The first step is pretty simple, we have a phone call, we find out what the company's needs are and if this is a fit for them. Because we also of course don't want to be part of just a checkbox initiative and have this course sit on a shelf, or it not actually meeting their needs, so we want to evaluate with them. And then we provide them with a trial, so they can review the course and see if it's a fit for the company.

And then we can provide them with the course with their own learning management system internally so a course that is housed within their own technical structures, or they can send us a list of employees and they can start learning—at the end of the learning there's a certificate of completion provided by First Nations University of Canada. It's LinkedIn compatible so a lot of folks like to celebrate that first step in their learning journey on their education page and have that online conversation.

And we support their learners technically as well as provide usage reports to the company and start working with their HR team to measure the impact and measure the success in their workplace, and then what other initiatives that they might like to see stem from that. There's also a 20-hour bonus library of ongoing learning offered to the learner for a year and also to the company. So perhaps they want to celebrate—you know, in Canada we honor treaties in Ontario for example, well that would be a good time to share stories of how other companies are doing that, and some of the sound bites and video clips that we have that relate to treaties that they can now share with their employees. So we help them have multimedia newsletters and information that they can provide, and we also help them if they want to host a film screening and actually learn about Indigenous business from Indigenous leaders. So some of the speaker series with the films are also provided to the companies.

JM: As we sort of get to the tail end of the conversation, I want to talk to you just a little bit about running a purpose-driven organization, as you do. Because it is different, so much of it is the same, right, as running any type of company. You have the same type of concerns, there are budget and bandwidth, and insurance, and rent, and all those types of things that we all kind of have to go through.

And then there's the thing that gets you out of bed every day, and kind of has a higher calling. For entrepreneurs looking to carve out this journey, one that is not straightforward, one that does not have a, “I went to business school, I saw the business model, I learned the ropes, I do it this way kind of thing,” what kind of advice would you give to an entrepreneur that wants to get into social entrepreneurship? Something that might have been unexpected that you had to learn along the way.

AC: Well in every sector, whenever I get a question like that, whether it's nursing and they say—I always invite that sector, and in your question, the business sector, the entrepreneur sector—learn from Indigenous peoples, you know, period. Because when it comes, for example to business and entrepreneurship, they have a long, amazing history, and some really fascinating, and proven systems of doing business that I think are going to be a lot more relevant as well, as we look for smarter ways of doing business.

So I always invite folks you know first, go learn from Indigenous business models. It will take your brain for a bit of an adventure and it will help you come back to your own business and see it from a different perspective. I find having a social impact business a lot easier than if it wasn't, for the very reason that you're always motivated and your work is so much more meaningful.

So instead of getting hung up on say technology solutions or which insurance policies should we get, you're brought into much higher circles and you're introduced to very high caliber people who teach you and lead you along the way because they want to see your initiative be successful and so your conversations are much wider, your networks are wider as well, and it forces you to grow and grow up very fast. So it forces you to mature at a higher speed than if you didn't have a social model.

And it also helps because you have different measures of success you know, they’re not all financial, even though that's important for sustainability. And it also gives you a lot of flexibility, you know, because we have a social model, we're able to try out different things and we're able to sometimes offer things for free that you couldn't do if you didn't have a social model and find creative ways to pay for some of those initiatives. Some of our proceeds go on to First Nations University scholarships.

And so those are the kinds of initiatives that keep you going. I mean a lot of businesses. Do go bankrupt, do shut down fairly fast, or they're very successful and they get bought up very fast, and now you have to start a new one. When you have a social impact business you're always driven to a higher purpose, and I think you expect yourself to do so much more high caliber because there are people who depend on you to bring a higher message. So in some ways, I find it so much easier. I think I'd have a really hard time not running this kind of model even though, of course, it comes with many, many challenges, but they're all worthwhile lifelines.

JM: My last question for you. Do you miss being behind the camera?

AC: I do miss being behind the camera, yes. We've had the pleasure though with this online course, of course, we've created a lot of content to fit in there and a lot of diverse content. And we filmed in many Indigenous communities with this initiative. So we've been very lucky to still be behind the camera.

JM: You’re able to get your fix.

AC: I haven't gotten my fix although I did get the honor of creating with Indigenous artists, a commercial for First Nation University which is airing on TV right now. So it's 60 second jolt that gave us that fix. But I do have some films in development in the background so hopefully—I always said my last film would be short and I would be 85. So luckily, I still have a few decades of filmmaking in me.

JM: On a final note, just before you tell us how people can get in touch with you, and anything else you'd like them to know—our relationship, personally, and your organization with our company is pivotal. It means the absolute world to us. There isn't a person on our team that doesn't know that this is where we want to live, this is where our hearts are. A lot of it, as you know, comes from our personal backstory at this company and how we're positioned, and it’s something that we're very close to.

But most of it, for the team, has been just working with you and your daughter. You're an extraordinary, extraordinary duo. I wish you so much success. I'm so grateful to be a part of it and to work for you, it's hard to put into words. So it's an honor to have you on the show. And thank you for trusting us to work alongside your efforts and I hope we do some really great things together. And with that out of the way, how can people get in touch with you and is there anything else you'd like people to know?

AC: Well, you know, first of all, I do want to take a moment to honor the Morey Creative team because it’s just one of those examples that I was speaking of earlier about when you do have a higher mission, high caliber people come into your life, and folks like your company and the values that you uphold have trickled down everywhere in your company and are so part of the fabric that to us it's been a real honor working with your company as well and your connection to making an impact socially. It's not just a thing you do on the side, it's in every process which I find amazing. So I'm learning so much from your team on how to have a social impact from the work that you do. So you inspire us immensely, we're so lucky to have you and we've had some interest from some US companies, and you know, I just know that we're in good company with you advising us, and having your capacity fueling us forward in these next few years. So I can't wait to see the good that we can do together so that's a real honor.

But people can get in touch with us. It's easy ReconciliationEducation.ca. In Canada, it's not dot com it's dot ca. And so once you remember that we're very easy to find and you can contact us there and learn about our work. And yeah, and I invite also for folks to learn from their local tribes and look for Indigenous leaders around you in your various sectors. Once you bring Indigenous People into your circle—and hopefully, that's a give and take and not just a take-take—your life will be so much better for it, for your business will be so much better for it.

Indigenous Peoples, whether in the US or Canada have so much to offer, and we have so much to learn from for the future, you know, not just for the reparation of the past. So I really encourage folks to learn through Reconciliation Education, as well as from your local tribes and nations in your neighborhood. And if you don't know who they are or where they are, just that is an amazing learning journey.

JM: Andrée thank you for being on the show, thanks for the time today I really appreciate it.

AC: Real honor, Jed. Thank you, thank you for everything you do.

JM: Well, if you want to learn more about Andrées story and Reconciliation Education, we're going to link some things in the show notes.

As always, if you want to get in touch with us you can reach out as well. Like us, rate us, review us wherever you listen to your podcasts, but also encourage you to download our social justice podcast News Beat. A lot of great stuff there including an episode that's upcoming on Indigenous struggles in the United States. That is all, for now, we'll see on the next episode of Grow For Good™.

Outro [Voiceover]: The Grow For Good™ podcast is produced and distributed by Morey Creative Studios, a diamond HubSpot Partner Agency that helps organizations leverage HubSpot to achieve sustainable growth. Grow For Good™ is a registered trademark of Morey Creative Studios.

Recent Articles