Bob Joseph can predict within the first three minutes how a meeting between industry and Indigenous communities will go.
Try to arrange a meeting during traditional seasonal activities? Don't acknowledge the community's traditional or treaty land? Mispronounce community and leaders' names? Already the company is in trouble.
But respecting a community's treaty rights, thanking them for attending the meeting, expressing a willingness to learn, and asking for help from the community can drastically improve the working relationship between the two parties.
"There's a big difference between someone who says that and somebody who says, 'I'm here to talk to you because you're a stakeholder on our list and the government told us we have to,"' Joseph said.
"They just don't understand and they don't take the time to learn the culture, the history, the legal, the constitutional--all that stuff."
Joseph is the founder and lead trainer of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., a Port Coquitlam, B.C.-based firm that trains companies and organizations on how to effectively engage with Indigenous communities. He's written numerous ebooks, available for free, and a popular blog that offer tips and suggestions on effective engagement with Indigenous communities.
It was while working for B.C. Hydro in the early '90s that Joseph was first approached about developing an in-house training program to educate employees about Indigenous history, consultation, culture and more to raise awareness and sensitivity to Indigenous interests.
His techniques were so effective he was soon fielding requests from outside firms requesting training for their workers. By 2002, he left B.C. Hydro to start his own company and continue the work.
Today, he and two other trainers conduct public workshops and custom training sessions in Ontario (including Northern Ontario), B.C., and Alberta; he's in such demand, he predicts he'll need to hire another trainer just to keep up.
Current interest in Indigenous training is fueled by the release of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which includes the recommendation to make available sensitivity training on Indigenous interests to government employees, he said.
There are organizations that are genuinely interested in learning more about Indigenous history and culture, but for the average junior mining company, the driving factor behind sensitivity training remains managing the risk tied to the company's bottom line.