The Northwest Territories government has launched new mandatory Indigenous cultural awareness and sensitivity training for its employees.
Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek announced the new training program, dubbed Living Well Together, in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. She said it will give employees and the public the opportunity to support reconciliation and decolonization in their workplaces and communities.
“Through careful reflection and deliberate acts of reconciliation, we can make positive changes throughout the Northwest Territories and serve as an example for the rest of Canada,” she told the House.
“We expect that this training will have an immeasurable impact on not only our public service but also on the communities we serve.”
The new training replaces the government’s previous Aboriginal Cultural and Sensitivity Training, which has been in place since 2013. A 2017 review of that program found there was a need for a greater focus on the history of colonization, legacy of residential schools, and cultural competency.
Living Well Together is a self-directed, interactive training program that is available online. It includes eight modules that cover topics ranging from the impacts of devolution, Indigenous rights and treaties, the implementation of residential schools in the NWT, personal stories from survivors, and resilience.
It takes between 10 to 30 hours to complete depending on how much additional content learners choose to explore. Wawzonek said the government aims for all employees to complete the training within the next 12 months.
The training is intended to encourage employees to put reconciliation into action and includes links to further resources. Wawzonek said there will be weekly group sessions for government employees who want to further discuss what they’ve learned.
“This isn’t something that is meat to just be you drop in once in awhile. It really is meant to be something that is a bigger commitment,” she said in a briefing with reporters.
“If we’re going to be serving the public, we should be doing so, in Canada, within the spirit of reconciliation and with an understanding of what that means.”
Several MLAs have called for the territorial government to do more to address systemic racism in the public service. Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos introduced a motion on March 3 for the government to review its policies and practices for racial and cultural bias.
MLAs have also specifically pointed to concerns with racism in the territory’s healthcare system. In 2019, the Department of Health and Social Services released a cultural safety action plan to improve the quality of care for Indigenous people, including cultural safety training for employees. Minister Julie Green told Cabin Radio her department plans to roll out a cultural competency framework this summer.
Living Well Together was developed by the departments of finance; education, culture and employment; and health and social services, along with Indigenous Elders, governments, community members, and artists.
The training is mandatory for all government employees and is also available to members of the public online. The government describes the training as being for “anyone who wants to learn more about intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”