Vancity’s vision is a transformed economy that protects the earth and guarantees equity for all, and meaningful Reconciliation is critical to realizing this vision. Committing to the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certification program marks the latest phase in our ongoing Reconciliation journey.
Vancity was founded in 1946 to be a different financial institution; one that is member-owned and values driven. Since then, we’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Indigenous communities to advance financial inclusion and participation. We've learned that to drive meaningful change, we must honour the lived experiences, listen to the needs, and follow the lead of those most impacted by systemic barriers.
Reconciliation is one of Vancity’s core organizational values. In our years working with Indigenous communities we’ve learned firsthand how colonial legacies continue to have far-reaching impacts on the lives and well-being of many Indigenous communities and people. For instance, it is unacceptable that some members of Indigenous communities face systemic barriers to receiving basic banking services such as opening accounts or qualifying for loans and mortgages.
These are systemic challenges, but as an impact-driven co-operative we know that systemic challenges can be met through joint action. Committing to PAR will enable us to take our Reconciliation journey further, building on steps already taken such as being a founding partner of Reconciliation Canada, adopting the call to action for businesses from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and adopting the UN Declaration of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We are already using the PAR framework’s focus on Leadership Actions, Employment, Business Development, and Community Relationships – identified as key drivers by Indigenous communities – to inform our Indigenous Banking Strategy. This strategy seeks to create equitable access to financial services and capital that enable Indigenous people, business, organizations and First Nations to gain self-determination and financial resilience. It aims to propel economic Reconciliation through deep and authentic engagement with Indigenous communities as well as an internal focus on increasing Indigenous voice and perspective in the representation and decision making of the credit union.
Our approach is focused on listening, learning, and acting. We strive to listen to Indigenous communities, knowledge keepers and leaders, so that we can understand how to remove systemic barriers from our business and centre our interactions on our Indigenous partners and members. We learn from our partners what they need, and we tailor solutions that address those needs. We seek to build relationships, not just carry out financial transactions.
Our Reconciliation journey is overseen by our Board of Directors and led by our Executive Leadership Team. We are providing education for our Board and leadership that includes focus on the history of Indigenous peoples, skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
We’ve also created a dedicated senior leadership position to lead our Indigenous Banking Strategy as well a cross-functional team of senior leaders to coordinate Reconciliation work across the organization. We are embedding Indigenous engagement and participation at the highest levels of our credit union, in both advisory and employment roles.
A key priority for us is to ensure our work environment supports, acknowledges, and validates Indigenous employees while also helping our non-Indigenous employees to bear witness, learn and make meaningful progress on their own Reconciliation journey. One important step will be the upcoming rollout of PAR-informed Reconciliation training that will be part of our employees required annual training.
We recognize and value the unique skillset that Indigenous employees bring to the workforce. We are building a dedicated Indigenous Talent Strategy to attract and retain more Indigenous employees and to support them in realizing their career choices and potential. Decolonizing our processes and policies will be a critical component of success.
In working with our Indigenous partners over the years, business development and community relationships have gone hand in hand. Our partners drive the relationship by identifying the unique needs of their community. We then identify and provide the banking tools best suited to addressing these needs.
This was our approach, for example, when we partnered with the ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay to open this remote community’s only local banking branch. The same approach led us to partner with multiple First Nations to create different on-reserve housing loan programs supporting their members in buying, building or renovating in their home communities.
Once a community relationship is struck, we remain ready to deepen it when the community wishes to do so, with our business interaction developing organically as a result. For example, a grant to support the Heiltsuk Nation in creating an on-reserve visiting specialist clinic led to the provision of other banking services required by Heiltsuk.
Our journey to meaningful Reconciliation is one we are both proud and humbled to walk on. We can only achieve our vision by sharing a pathway with Indigenous communities. Committing to PAR will enable us to take this journey to its next level.
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