Affinity Credit Union moves to adopt TRC calls to action
- Fraser Needham | April 11, 2016
Affinity Credit Union is wasting no time in formally adopting calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.
At a National Reconciliation Gathering in Winnipeg last month, Affinity announced, along with Manitoba’s Assiniboine Credit Union and B.C.’s Vanctiy Savings Credit Union, a joint declaration on reconciliation.
Call to action number 92 in the TRC’s final report refers specifically to business and reconciliation.
The TRC calls on Canadian businesses to do a number of things including adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, pursuing meaningful consultation with Indigenous communities when pursuing economic development projects that affect their communities and ensuring Indigenous people gain long-term sustainable benefits from these projects.
The final report also calls on the corporate sector to provide equitable jobs, training and educational opportunities for Indigenous people and educational training to management and staff in such areas as the residential schools historical legacy, Indigenous law and Indigenous-Crown relations.
“Affinity’s vision is to build a better world,” executive vice-president of marketing and community Myrna Hewitt says. “And so we just feel that here in Saskatchewan if we’re going to build a better world we need to work on reconciliation. Our Indigenous population is very high here, the gaps are wide, there’s a lot of work to do and we must get started.”
Paul Ledoux is a councillor for Muskeg Lake Cree Nation who also sits on Affinity’s board of directors.
He agrees that Affinity’s formal adoption of call to action 92 is a significant step forward.
“It’s important when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report came out was having them (Affinity) adopt action number 92,” he says. “They did this because they see the value of this report and the wrongs that were done to First Nations people.”
Both Ledoux and Hewitt also agree the credit union’s previous creation of the First Nations District Nine has played a major role in Affinity achieving better relations with Indigenous people.
The district consists of nine bands from across the province including Kahkewistahaw, Wahpeton Dakota, Cowesses, Thunderchild, Beardy’s and Okemasis, Little Pine, Lucky Man Lake, Whitecap Dakota and Muskeg Lake First Nations.
Two delegates from District Nine also sit on Affinity’s board of directors.
Aside from Ledoux, Cy Standing of Wahpeton Dakota Nation sits as a member of the board of directors.
“You have to go back to the development of District Nine,” Ledoux says. “The work that they undertook to establish a relationship with First Nations people and communities. It has been about looking at and developing a stronger relationship. It’s the first credit union based on the districts and delegates to do that with First Nations people.”
Affinity has also recently formed a partnership with the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre in an effort to promote Indigenous languages.
“We are working to support their (SICC’s) work to retain Indigenous languages in Saskatchewan,” Hewitt says. “They’re facing really extinction, the languages, because fewer and fewer people are speakers and so by helping retain the languages you help retain the culture and so that’s again part of what’s behind reconciliation and the calls to action.”
As part of this initiative, the credit union is also studying similarities between cooperative and First Nations values and how this relates to Indigenous languages.
Paul Ledoux, who sits on the committee for cooperative values and traditions, says this work provides some excellent opportunities for further reconciliation.
“We see that the principles of the co-ops are similar to our First Nations communities,” he says. “So some of the work that they’re actually undertaking is developing those cooperative principles and turning it into stories of First Nations languages.”
Affinity Credit Union has also given a $100,000 to Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon, which is targeted toward the park’s goal of achieving designation as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization world heritage site.