Brock University has taken another step forward in its key goal of fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization.
The University has joined the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), which provides Brock with a conduit to more than 1,000 businesses operated by Indigenous Peoples, as well as access to diverse programming, tools and training.
To Robyn Bourgeois, Acting Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, joining an organization meant to support Indigenous businesses illustrates how everyone plays a role in the University’s decolonization and Indigenization efforts.
“It’s such a great example of how we can operationalize what we mean by that pillar of fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization and showing our support for Indigenous Peoples,” she says.
Bourgeois says it was Director of Procurement Services Chuck Maclean who first suggested the University should join the CCAB.
“When you think about how a university can do an Indigenous strategy, procurement may not be the first thought, but I love that when Chuck looked at his own purview, he saw that chance and jumped at it,” she says.
Maclean, who helps units across the University with purchasing, says he learned about the CCAB at a conference and realized it could be of mutual benefit to join.
“If Indigenous businesses can give us like services and a good value, why not be supportive of them when it’s appropriate?” he says. “It’s a great collaboration. We’ll start from a foundation and build up, introducing these businesses to the University and the value of their work.”
While 2021 marks Brock’s first full year as a CCAB member, the University has a connection going much further back.
One of the CCAB’s founding members was Suzanne Rochon-Burnett, who passed away in 2006. Rochon-Burnett was an important figure in Brock’s history who served two terms on the Board of Trustees and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University in 2002. The Suzanne Rochon-Burnett Scholarship at Brock has helped opened the doors to post-secondary education for more than two dozen Indigenous students.
Suzanne’s daughter Michele-Elise Burnett, herself a Brock Board of Trustees member and co-chair of the Aboriginal Education Council, says her mother would be proud of Maclean’s vision to see Brock become a CCAB member.
“My mother always believed Brock University would lead by example and become Canada’s Indigenous School of Excellence, raising the bar for all universities to emulate,” says Burnett, whose mother received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CCAB and was the first woman inducted into the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame. “I share that same belief and I am elated to have the opportunity to see Brock embrace the pillar of fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization by building relationships with Indigenous businesses.”
Burnett says Brock is actively putting the Two Row approach into action.
“Working with Indigenous businesses will only strengthen our cross-cultural future. It will rekindle our once-profound friendship built on respect and trust and will create a paradigm shift other businesses and organizations can follow.”
Bourgeois hopes the example set by Maclean will help lead to others thinking about what role they can play in Indigenizing the University.
“Quite often when we think about Indigenizing, we think in siloed terms,” she says. “In reality, that commitment to Indigenization and decolonization should be infused throughout the University and that means all levels and areas could be involved.”