Institutional investors have a role to play in reconciling Canada with Indigenous people, says a new report by the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative.

“With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission [of Canada] report, it’s clear that we can all play our parts. It’s on all of us,” says Katherine Wheatley, manager of the RRII. “The opportunity is there for pension investors and managers to make a difference.

The report, which was produced with input from 48 Canadian investment managers and advisors, outlines three pillars for investment organizations to consider when managing assets of Indigenous groups or investing in businesses linked to their communities.

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“We wanted to see what actions were taken by various firms and, in aggregate, what these actions mean for economic reconciliation,” says Wheatley.

The first is for organizations to institute policies and practices that foster economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples. In a survey, the RRII found less than half of Canada’s institutional investment organizations have established some form of policy designed to target Indigenous peoples for job recruitment.

The second pillar requires these organizations to consider Indigenous peoples in client relations policies and practices. According to the survey, about half of firms offered programs to educate staff about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada — something Wheatley believes is “fundamental” to effectively working toward reconciliation.

“When working with Indigenous clients, it’s important that you have undergone a degree of cultural training. Education is fundamental to action. Without education, actions might not be done well or in a way that’s geared toward investors.”

The final pillar requires investment groups to implement policies and practices that incorporate Indigenous rights and economic reconciliation into investment decision-making. More than half of the surveyed organizations reported incorporating considerations related to Indigenous rights into the investment decision-making process.

The RRII is a joint venture between two non-profits, the Shareholders Association for Research and Education and the National Aboriginal Trust Officers’ Association. In 2019, it published another report, advancing reconciliation in Canada: a guide for investors.

“The guide is the first place pension investors should go for more information. In it, we’ve outlined steps for investors looking to advance reconciliation.”

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