Thursday, September 30th, marks Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and Innovate Edmonton acknowledges the Survivors, their families, Indigenous communities, and others affected by the unjust and harmful residential school system. We recognize that active Reconciliation starts with committing to meaningful action in the spirit of healing and strengthening Edmonton’s innovation community.
Change starts from within
Establishing an internal team that represents different perspectives, backgrounds, and mirrors the vibrant diversity of Edmonton’s population, has risen far beyond a checklist of to-do’s and has become a formative core value of our organizational culture. Leading this charge is James Hampshire, Manager, People and Culture, who shares his personal experiences as a proud member of the Indigenous community, and what it means to drive our values of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
“Innovate Edmonton recognizes and champions the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation because it speaks directly to our culture and commitment to reconciling and healing with the Indigenous community. We believe in ‘big tent’ innovation, and that starts with welcoming all people.” James notes. “Since a young age, I’ve had an innate understanding that everyone is different, and regardless of background or perspective, everyone brings something special, and that’s why representation in all spaces, is so important.”
Born in Armstrong, BC, and raised in the nearby small town of Silver Creek, BC, James recalls connecting to his heritage at a young age through ancestral knowledge and stories passed down from his paternal Grandmother and partaking in various activities. “My Indigenous lineage lays with the Simpcw people of the Secwepemc Nation, and my ancestors lived on the Chu Chua reserve in the North Thompson River, near the Shuswap’s.” While James has never visited the Chu Chua reserve, he feels fortunate to have experienced his family’s cultural traditions. “Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a strong connection to my roots as my school included me in Indigenous events at Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn, also known as the Splatsin Teaching Centre. There I learned about traditional song and dance, making Bannock, and listened to the experiences and stories of the Elders.” explains James.
During his formative years, he was also a member of an Indigenous Youth Support Group, and spent much of his time with his best friend of Indigenous heritage at the Switsemalph Indian Reserve No. 3 – In Gleneden, just outside of Salmon Arm. “I spent a lot of time in Gleneden, making pine baskets and learning traditional beadwork with my best friend, which was one of my favourite things to do,” says James.
Uncovering family truths and experiences
It wasn’t until recently that James uncovered details about his ancestors being residential school Survivors, and discovered that Elder Antoine Lampreau, his third great Grandfather of Métis descent, worked as an Interpreter & Fur Buyer for The Hudson’s Bay Company between 1840-1870.
“After learning about my family’s history, this week is especially important to me because it is a way to pay tribute to my family’s legacy, and those directly affected by the residential school system, my family included, and ensure their sacrifice is not forgotten,” shares James, as he reflects on the meaning of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and his leading role within People and Culture.
“Representation is the very heart of Innovate Edmonton, and I am proud to represent myself and my lineage and proud of everything I have accomplished. My experiences have built a strong sense of empathy for others. For me, I recognize that in my role I have an opportunity to instill a diverse and inclusive organizational culture.”
Part of something bigger
James spearheads various inclusivity and diversity initiatives, including incorporating equitable language in job James spearheads various inclusivity and diversity initiatives, including incorporating equitable language in job postings and utilizing a blind recruitment methodology that reduces subconscious bias. These have contributed to Innovate Edmonton’s diverse workforce by ensuring every applicant is placed on an equal playing field that focuses on their skillsets, and the amazing talent they bring to the table.
“It feels good to know that my contributions can make a big difference. Knowing that you are part of something bigger than yourself is very fulfilling and important to know,” James recognizes.
Yet, the hard work doesn’t stop there. Our team is committed to recognizing, appreciating and celebrating First Nations, Métis, and Inuit innovators, whose footsteps have marked these lands for generations. We strive to lead with purpose, driven by the mandate to develop an ecosystem where all people can come together to build, grow, create, and incite positive change.
Later this week, Innovate Edmonton will publish a Commitment Statement that is focused on our Reconciliation efforts and demonstrates how we will encourage, support, and promote the resurgence of Indigenous knowledge and practices, and to empower Indigenous innovators and innovations.
“Throughout the week, we’re sending out communications and learning resources, and will amplify Indigenous voices and stories. We welcome and encourage you to take this day to reflect, educate, and focus on Reconciliation and what you can do to support Indigenous communities.” says James.
There is a lot of hard work ahead, as acknowledging the experiences and traumas of Indigenous communities and working towards Reconciliation is only the beginning, and today, everyone can learn and grow together, and take steps towards a better and brighter future.