Fostering Indigenous Culture Through Procurement

The CCSP was excited to kick off the second half of the 2023 programming on September 21st. In the spirit of the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30th, this month’s topic was Economic Reconciliation: Attracting Indigenous Suppliers.

Procuring with Indigenous businesses within the public sector not only aligns with the Government of Canada’s TRC Call to Action 92: Business and Reconciliation, but also helps support the growth and preservation of Indigenous companies, communities, and culture. As such, it is important that the public sector engages with Indigenous suppliers to help foster the economic resilience and cultural safety of Indigenous peoples.

At this session, CCSP members learned about two different perspectives and experiences of Indigenous Procurement in the public sector. We first heard from Chef Stephanie Baryluk (Chef Steph) about her journey from a rural northern community in the Northwest Territories, to Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, and what role she played in developing the Rooted Program in SFU dining halls.

Our second speaker, David Hunt, is the Sourcing Manager of ESG and Indigenous Procurement at Canada Post. He shared the strategy and targets that Canada Post has developed for engaging with Indigenous suppliers, as well as some success stories and examples.


Sharing Indigenous Culture Through Food

When Chef Steph Baryluk moved away from her home in the northern community of Fort McPherson, NWT, she quickly learned that the culture she was used to was vastly different from busy city life. She missed her small-town home and her culture. it was through cooking that Steph felt closest to home, and she was inspired to become a Red Seal Certified Chef.

After working as a Chef in the Lower Mainland, SFU reached out to Chef Steph expressing interest about developing an Indigenous Food Program in their dining halls. From there, Rooted was born.

Rooted is a program in SFU dining commons dedicated to showcasing Indigenous cuisine. Chef Steph, in collaboration with the SFU dining program and Feed BC, created a collection of dishes inspired by Indigenous flavours, using local ingredients from BC. Each dish comes with an educational blurb and personal notes from Chef Steph.

Sharing Indigenous food isn’t only important for appreciating Indigenous culture, it is also packed with insights that are important for broader sustainability. Here are some messages we learned from Chef Steph about Indigenous food and culture:

  • Food is a means to create connection with others, no matter their background.
  • Cooking with local ingredients helps promote local economies and reduces GHG emissions.
  • Purchasing seasonal fruits, vegetables and meats can help protect biodiversity and reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Taking only what you need can help reduce waste.
  • Respecting everyone in your community ensures everyone is included.

Chef Steph relayed that she has faced both racism and sexism in the food industry, but commended SFU for creating a safe and welcoming space for her work. Providing Indigenous foods within public institutions is a great way to share and facilitate learning about Indigenous culture and traditional knowledge.


Indigenous Procurement is about more than Purchasing from Indigenous Businesses

Canada Post initiated their Indigenous procurement activities in 2019 as a part of their broader reconciliation strategy. The organization has an annual spend of around 10 billion dollars, representing an opportunity to create vast impact. They set their Indigenous spend target at 5%, chosen because Indigenous People represent 5% of the country’s Population. Starting at 1.7% in 2019, Canada Post has increased their spend to 3.5% as of this year, which is on track to reach their target by 2025.

Here are 5 key takeaways from Canada Post for how to effectively procure and engage with Indigenous suppliers:

  1. Build relationships: Relationship building is a key best practice for working with Indigenous suppliers, as it helps develop trust and results in psychological safety and needs being met for both parties. To do this, it is important to “listen more than you talk”.
  2. Create opportunities: Helping Indigenous businesses expand their product or service offerings can create a win-win situation where Indigenous economies can grow, while also providing for your procurement needs.
  3. Provide Indigenous-owned points: Canada Post gives 5% of points to companies that are Indigenous-owned. This supports the Indigenous businesses’ competitiveness in the bidding process.
  4. Meet suppliers where they’re at: Indigenous businesses, especially those in rural and/or northern communities, may be smaller than their competition, or have a smaller product/service offering. Consider dividing RFPs and contracts into smaller parts to make room for these smaller suppliers.
  5. Join supplier diversity councils: Councils like CAMSC and CCAB are great channels for finding and communicating with Indigenous suppliers. However, be careful not to rule out suppliers who aren’t certified with these councils; you can also check local business chambers of commerce and First Nations Band business listings.


Relationships are Key

Both Chef Steph and David stressed the importance of relationship building  with Indigenous suppliers. It is crucial to go beyond the financial transaction of procurement and build trust and connection in order to have strong working partnerships.

Indigenous suppliers provide unique and quality products/services that help share Indigenous culture and foster local economies. Next time you’re planning a new procurement, whether low-value or competitive bid, consider how you can include Indigenous suppliers.