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BC Hydro goes for gold in aboriginal relations

BC Hydro's Lyle Viereck (left), shakes hands with Clint Davis, CEO Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

Barely six months after achieving a Silver rating by the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Businesses (CCAB) for its relationship building efforts with aboriginal people, BC Hydro is now seeking to earn the highest honour offered by the Council’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program.
 
“It’s rather appropriate that a few months before the 2010 Winter Olympics, BC Hydro launches its own path to gold, which is certainly a journey toward excellence and accomplishment,” CCAB president Clint Davis told BC Hydro staff and dignitaries who gathered recently to kick-off BC Hydro’s “Going for Gold” progressive aboriginal strategy.
 
“Clearly, this is a company that gets it. BC Hydro has done some remarkable work in advancing aboriginal relations in B.C,” said Davis, who specifically acknowledged BC Hydro’s creation of the Aboriginal Key Account Management sector in Customer Care as “efficient and unique.”
 
The CCAB presented BC Hydro with a silver designation in February, a year after the company became the first utility in Canada to participate in the PAR program – the first of its kind in the world. During the CCAB’s annual gala dinner in late September, BC Hydro was formally acknowledged for having successfully attained the silver award.
 
What's the program about?

The PAR program requires that companies set goals and assess themselves in four areas: employment, business development, individual capacity development, and community relations. BC Hydro’s re-assessment in the PAR program is set for May 2012.
 
“At BC Hydro, we believe that building relationships with First Nations throughout the province is the responsibility of all employees, whether you work in the office or in the field,” said Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro's senior VP for Engineering, Aboriginal Relations and Generation. “I’m proud to say that it is the collective efforts of employees across the company that have brought us to this point today.”

BC Hydro’s ongoing goal is to create and preserve a foundation of mutual understanding, respect, open and honest communication and trust with First Nations.
 
Following its initial assessment with CCAB’s PAR program in 2008, O’Riley said BC Hydro learned that it is doing many things well in aboriginal relations, but that there is room for improvement before it can reach the highest level.
 
“I’m pleased to announce today that we now have an action plan to get us to gold,” said O’Riley. “This is an ambitious target and we have a lot of work to do to get there. But I have confidence that we can achieve this as a team.”
 
BC Hydro has spent the past several months building an aggressive action plan to improve its aboriginal relations. The plan includes:

  • Embedding aboriginal relations components within social responsibility policy;
  • Considering aboriginal issues in structured decision making;
  • A heightened promotion of education and training;
  • Greater aboriginal representation among employees;
  • Additional cross-cultural programs/events;
  • The pursuit of new aboriginal business development opportunities, such as procurement and contracting.

“This is very much about a journey,” said Lyle Viereck, BC Hydro's director of Aboriginal Relations and Negotiations. “And it’s a journey that we as a company are taking to continue to learn, make improvements and create a greater capacity of understanding across BC Hydro.”