Last week, KPMG in Canada released its Truth & Reconciliation Action Plan. This is an important step on our firm’s journey to contribute to this deeply worthy cause—and a proud moment for me personally. That’s because not only am I a KPMG partner, the national leader of our industrial markets industry group and the deputy chair of our board of directors, I am also a member of the Shawanaga First Nation.
I am, to be more specific, of mixed ancestry: English-Irish on my father’s side, Ojibway on my mother’s. Given all that I know and have seen of settler-Indigenous relations in Canada, promoting Indigenous people and culture, especially within our firm, is a responsibility and a mission that I hold very dear. For this reason, among others, I am also the partner sponsor of our National Indigenous Peoples Network, which consists of more than 150 individuals from across the country. This passionate group of KPMG employees, Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies alike, are committed to creating an inclusive work environment for Indigenous employees, increasing awareness of Indigenous culture and history across the firm, and giving back to the Indigenous community. It is my distinct honour to sponsor their work.
So, while our Truth & Reconciliation Action Plan, as a declared strategy and published document, is new, our commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity is not. It is fundamental to who we are as a firm. And our commitment to reconciliation also isn’t new. For instance, we marked the occasion of the newly instituted National Day for Truth and Reconciliation statutory holiday last September 30 not to celebrate, but to reflect. It was a day on which we deliberately chose not to take time for ourselves but to give time to something bigger than each of us. That meant closing all of our offices across the country on the understanding that our people would use the day to learn about the truth of our shared history, to act in support of reconciliation, and ultimately to work toward healing from the intergenerational and ongoing trauma that the lasting legacy of residential schools has caused.
We did the same this year.
But even as these days weren’t the beginning of this journey for our firm, they also aren’t the end. Nor is the formal release of our Truth & Reconciliation Action Plan. Even so, I could not be happier that we have now reached this stage.
Every day having not implemented this plan was an eternity, but we knew we had to take the time to engage with and consult Indigenous stakeholders—not least the Indigenous-owned and -led consulting firm, Acosys, that worked with us directly on the plan itself. We all recognized it was critical to include diverse voices and perspectives to help move the plan forward in a genuinely respectful way. And in developing the commitments themselves, it was also very important to engage our team nationally so that accountabilities rest with many rather than only a few individuals. This allows for truth and reconciliation to be embedded into all facets of our firm, setting us up well for real change.
The plan consists of three pillars:
- Advancing an equitable and inclusive culture where bias and barriers are removed and Indigenous Peoples are supported, can thrive, and can achieve their professional goals.
- Building allyship with Indigenous Peoples by raising awareness at our firm, with clients, and in corporate Canada to inspire everyone to act in support of reconciliation.
- Being a trusted collaborator by continuously engaging with Indigenous communities and organizations to create sustainable socio-economic benefits for Indigenous Peoples.
Each of these pillars consists of two specific goals and a combined total of 43 distinct action items, behind every one of which is a key performance indicator that we will use to track and measure our progress. I truly hope you will take the time to read the plan and let me know what you think about it. To our corporate peers, I encourage you all to do your part, as well; nothing would make me happier than for others to challenge themselves to do more. It isn’t about out doing each other; it’s about moving us all forward to do better.
Because another truth is this: whether it’s being on reserve helping others—like my sister, a children’s services worker with Niijaansinaanik Child and Family Services, of whom I could not be prouder—or off-reserve, working to make changes in society through business, non-profits, or the education system, all Canadians have a role to play in advancing Indigenous reconciliation.
My strong belief in that is part of my equally strong belief in sharing goals publicly in order for organizations to hold themselves accountable. If we are to make a real difference, we need to be bold, establish metrics and share our example beyond ourselves. Our Truth & Reconciliation Action Plan, then, isn’t designed so that we can just write a cheque, or for one person to be able to press a button or take some specific, limited action. It runs across the business, is wide-ranging, and engages our entire firm to follow through.
And honestly, it’s been so gratifying to see our people come together to do this, stepping up to support education and allyship so that we are now in the position to do it right. I reflect often on how much has happened in recent history, how perceptions about my mother and her generation have gradually changed throughout her lifetime, and how shocked and proud my grandmother would have been if she could see the changes and progress happening now. It’s all aligned, and I know I’m extraordinarily fortunate to be able to do what I do and to be sufficiently senior in my organization that I can push and use my position to move this kind of thing forward. It’s a genuine responsibility and an amazing opportunity.
The last thing I want to say, for now, is that I hope our plan helps you think of actions you can take and that you, too, can find your role in reconciliation.
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