Advancing Indigenous learning and inclusion at Syngenta Canada

Recommendation #92 of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission calls upon the corporate sector to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Among other things, it asks corporate Canada to break down barriers for Indigenous employment, to consider economic opportunities for Indigenous people and businesses, and to educate employees on Indigenous history.

Syngenta Canada is taking action through its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). The company recently became a member of Indigenous Works, a non-profit national organization whose mandate is to improve the inclusion and engagement of Indigenous people in the Canadian economy. Through membership in the national Leadership Circle for Indigenous Inclusion, organizations like Syngenta gain access to valuable resources, tools and events uniquely designed to teach about Indigenous history and receive guidance to take an organizational approach to Indigenous workplace inclusion.

David Kuypers, head of data and commercial operations, points to the unique ties between agriculture and the Indigenous community. “Agriculture is a foundational part of the history of Indigenous Canadians,” he says, highlighting the opportunity for Indigenous knowledge to help address challenges related to sustainability and food security. “The Canadian agricultural industry would benefit from the Indigenous perspective.”

One way that Syngenta Canada is embedding this perspective within the organization is through educational opportunities, which includes the launch of an ‘Understanding Indigenous Peoples of Canada Learning Pathway’ for employees. The online learning portal is full of resources to help explore the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences, and stories of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. The self-guided learning allows employees to plot their own journey, recognizing individuals are at different stages of awareness and understanding.

Ravi Ramachandran, territory head of research & development and an EDI champion at Syngenta Canada, is on a unique learning path. “My journey started when I attended the virtual celebration of a Canadian citizenship ceremony of a family friend last year. The focus to learn about Canada’s Indigenous community originated when the judge presiding the event, Mr. Albert Wong, asked participants and their families to take time to learn about the history and culture of the people of Canada's First Nations and their lands,” he says. “It was wonderful to see Judge Wong take time to share with us the history of the land of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples – the First Nations who had inhabited the current city of Toronto and Mississauga. It was a transformative, emotional experience that set me on a course to learn more about Canada's First Nations community.” Accordingly, when the Syngenta Canada leadership team initiated a focus area around learning and celebrating the contributions and experience of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), Ravi naturally gravitated to lead that EDI initiative.

By putting reconciliation into action, workplaces become stronger, more inclusive, and more effective.

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