We can do more to learn about the history and experiences of Aboriginal Peoples, so that we can better understand one another and change the way we think and act.
We commit to providing our employees with more training and also more opportunities to participate in cultural experiences. We aim to measure changes in understanding and behaviours – within Suncor and through the work of the Suncor Energy Foundation’s key partners, like Indspire, Bridges Social Development and Reconciliation Canada.
Strengthening relationships is something that is a priority at Suncor, and we have designed many supporting initiatives to enable our employees along the way. We’re focusing on four key areas:
- Increasing awareness
- Building understanding
- Shifting attitudes
- Changing behaviours
Aboriginal awareness training
Aboriginal awareness training is a key way we’re enabling every employee at Suncor to learn more about the history and experience of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
Since 2015, Suncor has offered a web-based training module to ensure every employee can have a basic level of awareness about the history and experiences of Aboriginal Peoples. We developed our training with input and guidance from partners such as Reconciliation Canada and our own Aboriginal employees. The training features their stories and perspectives, which has made the information and messages more relatable.
By the end of 2017, close to 5,000 employees had completed Aboriginal awareness web-based training.
After requests from Suncor employees and a number of community partners who wanted to be able to share the training within their organizations, the web-based training module was made broadly available (free of charge) on suncor.com in the spring of 2017.
We also offer a more comprehensive classroom session for employees that expands on the awareness created through the web-based training. It builds understanding about the historic and current relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and all Canadians through storytelling and meaningful discussion. In 2017, close to 200 employees completed classroom training.
Employees who’ve taken the training have given some great feedback. Here are just a few samples of what they said:
- “From the bottom of my heart I thank you for today and I would ask where I can get more information…As I sat at supper tonight having the conversation with my grandkids, I was thankful for today knowing I can make a difference.” – Bernd Wehmeyer, Fort McMurray
- “I thought it was a powerful message about the past and a great reminder of how far we have come in society in respect to acceptance of ALL peoples…for someone who has no forehand knowledge of the past atrocities our country committed against Indigenous people it’s a great educational piece…one of the best courses I have taken in my tenure here. Great work by all involved!” – Ryan Miller, Fort McMurray
- ”Thank you for holding such a great learning opportunity for the people at the Sarnia Refinery. It was so interesting, meaningful and sparked a lot of great conversation.” – Penny Mcachern, Sarnia
Aboriginal Employee Network
Suncor’s Aboriginal Employee Network (AEN) is our employee resource group that supports advancing Aboriginal inclusion at Suncor. The network is structured around four focus areas, called circles.
The Aboriginal Awareness Circle specifically supports cross-cultural sharing by increasing awareness and understanding of Aboriginal experiences within Suncor. For instance, the AEN distributes a regular e-newsletter and shares cultural insights, maintains a page on Suncor’s intranet that highlights a wide variety of topical resources (books, movies, websites, music and podcasts), and hosts lunch and learn sessions.
“I learn something new about my culture every time I’m in an AEN session. I can’t express how good it makes me feel as an Aboriginal. Much better than when I was younger and tried to hide who I was. I’ve spoken more about my heritage this year than I did in my previous 33 years at the company, including sharing my story with my fellow managers and leaders.” – Darcy Venne, member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation; manager of technical services, Suncor.
Experiential learning opportunities
We are creating opportunities for employees across Suncor to participate in cultural learning experiences. These experiences enable direct engagement and cultural exchange between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Examples include participating in community events, such as Treaty Days, hosting events internally or volunteering for specific initiatives.
“This was an exceptional program that changed my perspective profoundly. Thanks so much for putting this on for us.” - Angela Butler, vice president and controller, Suncor; cultural experience participant.
Suncor recently had the opportunity to host a group of Aboriginal youth from the Siksika Nation at our office in Calgary.
The students were each paired up with a Suncor employee from the Aboriginal Employee Network. They spent the day learning from each other. The Siksika youth shared details about living in a First Nation community, and Suncor team members reflected on what it takes to be part of the Suncor team. For some of the youth, it was the first time they’d ever been to the city centre or in a high-rise office building.
“The day was perfect, the people were amazing and the vast options were spot on. Also the guides answered everything perfectly,” reflects Dallas Dick, a member of the Siksika Nation who participated in the event.
This initiative was organized by Suncor’s stakeholder and Aboriginal relations and human resources teams in partnership with Bridges Social Development and the Suncor Energy Foundation. Bridges is a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of capacity building and training for professional and youth leaders in various communities, including First Nation communities like Siksika. The Suncor Energy Foundation has been a supporter of Bridges since 2011.
“The experience was very rewarding for me personally. I really have a passion for talking to people who want to get into the industry. It’s great to have one-on-one discussions with Aboriginal youth and show them things they have never seen before. The job of leaders is to create more leaders,” says Dwayne McLeod, a member of the Upstream team at Suncor.
Measuring our progress
We’re measuring relationship building in a number of ways along the journey. Internally, we’re measuring awareness building and changing attitudes through the number of participants attending the online and classroom-based Aboriginal awareness training, as well as conducting pre and post-surveys. We’re also starting to use developmental evaluation frameworks to assess the effectiveness of our work, to look for shifts in perception, attitudes and behaviours, as well as identify emerging opportunities.