Transcript: Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Indigenous Procurement
[The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Pages turn, opening a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. White text reads, "This event was organized in collaboration with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat." This fades out and is replaced with a Zoom call. The moderator is a white woman with shoulder-length dark blonde hair. She wears a blue and white speckled blouse. A close-up painting of a flowering tree branches hangs on the wall behind her.]
Jessica Sultan [JS]: Hello and welcome.
[Translated from French] Good morning, everyone. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today.
My name is Jessica Sultan, and I'm the director general of the Economic and Business Opportunities Branch at Indigenous Services Canada.
[A purple box appears across the bottom of the screen. White text in it reads, "Jessica Sultan. Director General, Economic and Business Opportunities Branch, Indigenous Services Canada."]
On behalf of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, and the Canada School of Public Service, I would like to welcome you to this event on best practices and lessons learned in Indigenous Procurement.
[Translated from French] It is more important than ever to strengthen the relationships between the federal government and Indigenous businesses, and to share ways to create mutually beneficial contracting arrangements.
Today you will hear about best practices and lessons learned in achieving positive outcomes in Indigenous procurement.
It is my pleasure to moderate this session today, with our esteemed panelists Timothy Dymond, procurement team Leader at Public Services and Procurement Canada.
[The three panelists' video windows appear.]
Lieutenant-Colonel François Lagacé, J5, Canadian Forces Real Property Operations group ADM Infrastructure and Environment in the Canadian Armed Forces.
And Tim Hopkins, president of the Advantage Group.
Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that the land on which many of us are viewing this event is unceded territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin people.
I recognize that some of our participants are joining from other parts of the country and you may be on different Indigenous territory. I encourage you to take a moment to think about that territory that you're currently occupying.
[Jessica's window fills the screen as she pauses for a moment.]
For your best viewing experience, we would recommend that you start by disconnecting from your VPN. Throughout the event you can send us questions using the participate button, which looks like a little person with a raised hand on the top right banner of your screen.
So without further ado, I'd like to welcome Timothy Dymond.
[The panelists' windows reappear. In the top left corner, Timothy smiles. He is a white man with short black and grey hair. He wears black glasses and a navy blue button-down shirt with small white patterns. Home furniture items are in the room behind him.]
Timothy Dymond is a procurement team leader leading the implementation of the Nunavut directive on government contracts, including real property leases in the note of its Settlement Area for the Western Region procurement branch of PSPC.
Within the Environmental Services acquisitions team, Tim is establishing and refining best practices that promote the participation of Inuit firms in procurement.
Tim is also leading the creation and delivery of practical regional training for contracting authorities to facilitate a more thoughtful and meaningful approach to contracting in the Nunavut Settlement Area. Timothy, over to you.
[A fifth video window appears, displaying a white man with short black hair in a green t-shirt. Timothy's window fills the screen.]
Timothy Dymond [TD]: Thank you so much, Jessica, for that introduction.
[White text in a purple box reads, "Timothy Dymond. Procurement Team Leader, Procurement Branch, Environmental Services Acquisitions Team, Public Services and Procurement Canada."]
I'm really happy to be here.
And so, as Jessica mentioned, I'm leading the implementation of the Nunavut Directive here in the Western region, and so we're basically putting tools in place as well as providing training and support as our contracting authorities move through the procurement process and the Nunavut Settlement Area, or what we call the NSA.
So, to start, I think it might be helpful for the audience to provide a little bit of background on the directive that we're implementing to provide some context to the tools that we use in the Western region, and specifically Indigenous benefits plans.
So, when were contracting in the NSA, this carries with it some obligations for the federal government, and the directive is in place to ensure that those obligations in the Nunavut agreement are followed, and those are to increase participation of Inuit firms in business opportunities, improve the capacity of Inuit firms to compete for government contracts in property leases, and to promote the employment of Inuit at a representative level in the NSA workforce.
And there are two main practices that we follow to achieve these objectives. First, we use limited tendering. So, we use limited bidding to firms listed on the IFR, or the Inuit Firm Registry, that's managed by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, or the NTI, who is the organization that represents Inuit in the NSA.
And we include Inuit benefits criteria, which I'll refer to here as Inuit Benefit Plans or IBPs, and Nunavut's criteria as well in all of the requirements.
So, an IBP is part of a contractor's proposal that will identify that contractor's commitments to provide employment, training, and development to Inuit, and to subcontract portions of work to Inuit firms through the course of fulfilling the requirement.
And we evaluate those commitments through the time and dollar value commitment, the dollar value of them, and that's point rated against the commitments of other contractors.
NBC's, or Nunavut Benefits Criteria, we award points to contractors for being located in the Nunavut Settlement Area.
And it's kind of also important to note to everyone that the weighting of this criteria, like, in terms of the valuation, is quite high. So when we're limiting to IFR firms, the weighting is 30%. But if we open tender that weighting increases, it will be worth 35% of the point rated evaluations. There's quite a bit of skin in the game.
The IBP approach is not new. It started in the early 2000s in support of our northern contaminated sites program and that was as a way to meet our land claim obligations outside Nunavut as well to provide opportunities to rights holders through federal contracting. Although it has evolved quite a bit as we work to improve the process to achieve meaningful benefits through the course of our requirements.
So, initially the common approach was to apply a price reduction based on location and commitments towards subcontracting an employment. As an example, if a bidder scored 8/10 on the criteria, the price would be reduced by 8% for valuation purposes and typically the low bidder would be awarded the contract.
And that approach really is kind of what inspired the way we approach IBPs right now in Nunavut and other land claim areas, but obviously it's evolved quite a bit to include a closer link to the technical aspects of the work, and it's been strengthened to incentivize and reward capacity building through training and development programs.
So now that we have some context on how we apply these IBPs, I think we can sort of show you how we apply that practice a little bit more broadly.
We use similar benefits plans with socio-economic and location criterion to meet the obligations of modern treaties in place in areas other than the NSA, and some of those agreements are the Tlicho, Gwich'in, Inuvialuit, and Sahtu Dene and Métis agreements.
And so what's really important to understand is at the end of the day the successful benefits plan will be highly dependent on our ability to structure it in a way that ensures that a mutually beneficial outcome will happen where the requirements satisfied and at the same time as benefits are realized for rights holders. We have to co-develop these approaches and be clear on the plan forward. But most importantly, be sure that we're honouring the commitments that we make.
With existing modern treaties, and especially like I said before with the Nunavut agreement, contracting has to meet specific socio-economic obligations like training, employment, and through subcontracting.
So it really doesn't matter of structuring our requirements around those obligations, and early engagement is the key. And the community impacted and rights holders should be a part of that planning process.
So as a best practice, when we know there will be a project on its way, it's really important that we engage communities as soon as possible. We need to gain a better understanding of the site and lessons learned from past projects and the needs of the community from their perspective. And how we can best meet those obligations.
So, taking this time to gather traditional knowledge to inform the process. It will also prove valuable ... for example, when locals will be focused on traditional customs, this might not be the right time to tender or run a particular project.
Also, we can appreciate that we may have clients—and we notice that we do have clients—that may be unfamiliar and even uncomfortable with this type of approach, this type of engagement, but I think that we need to reinforce that this really does need to be part of project development, the project development process.
Questions we need to ask when we're putting these benefits plans together are, what are the opportunities for training and development? Is there capacity for employment, for subcontracting? How can this be built into the project to provide maximum opportunities, and how can an IBP be structured to align with the needs of the community within the operational constraints of the project? Can we localize those benefits? In some cases, in the region, we've worked with our clients and rights holders through joint working groups to customize the IBP to establish appropriate and realistic criteria that can better meet the needs of those rights holder groups.
And obviously this is also information that you can establish through various engagement sessions. So, all of these are strong components. They're mandatory components, really, required to structure meaningful IBP. It's really, really, really important that they are explored very early on in process, as soon as possible, because it takes time. And we as procurement professionals can't tender a requirement subject to a modern treaty before these components have been assessed.
And it's also worth noting that on the back end or when we follow through with these requirements, monitoring is very, very important. Benefits plans are only successful when they are appropriately managed, so we have to remember to follow up on the progress of commitments that are being made, and this has to be timely, and it has to be meaningful.
It's also very helpful as an internal check for us to understand whether our approach is working, and at the end of the day it's important to just track performance and to identify concerns as soon as possible to ensure that actual benefits and opportunities can be realized, because that really is the ultimate goal.
To shift the little bit, I think "relatively speaking"—and I kind of use this with air quotes—"relatively speaking," it's straightforward to include benefits plans in a land claim area because the obligations are clear.
However, we've been asking ourselves, is this something that we can apply outside of a modern treaty area? And the answer is yes, it's possible. And it's encouraged.
The new "any measures" language incorporated into the updates to Canada trade agreements, for example, allow for this type of criteria, and they provide tremendous flexibility.
They pose no impediment to the inclusion of measures for the benefit of Indigenous peoples and or businesses in a procurement. Moreover, procurement plays a role, an important role in the Government of Canada's reconciliation agenda.
The Minister of Mandate letters, our 5% government Canada-wide targets, and our move to enshrine UNDRIP into legislation are all indicators that we need to consider this type of engagement and procurement customization in all of the projects that we have that impact Indigenous communities.
Although, it is important to note and understand that we can't be presumptive about the level of involvement a community will call for or their interest in these approaches. And so, you know, if you're looking at trying these types of types of approaches, we recommend and we have practice to reach out to Indigenous Services Canada's implementation branch to discuss the appropriateness of your approach to engage in the community, and the proposed benefit strategy.
Really, keeping in mind other tools that are also available, and in some cases required a procurement strategy for Aboriginal business.
So a final note for me at this point would be just to ask everyone to remember these key things. A successful strategy while you're moving forward, a successful strategy should involve the business owner. It should involve the contracting authority. It should involve a project manager, and ideally the rights holders, and a benefits plan is not plug-and-play.
You can't fast track it. There's no easy template that you can plunk into your RFP and use. Sometimes the standard approach, it won't be optimal, it'll call for additional creativity and innovation.
Every requirement is different and will require its own unique strategy. It's always going to be case by case. And this is why it's so important to engage early. So remember there needs to be a strong relationship with the clients, like the business owner, the project management, rights holders.
It will be beneficial and it is so very important. Flexibility in what you're doing is also important, and always acknowledge that there is so much to learn. Thanks.
[A grey and white cat walks onto the staircase landing behind Timothy. The other participants' windows reappear.]
JS: Timothy, thank you so much for sharing that with us.
[The cat goes down the stairs one step at a time and walks off screen.]
As someone who had the honour of working as part of a broader team to work on the directive on contracts and the NSA including the real property leases, as well as having worked in procurement for 20 years but not operationalizing the requirements from the directive myself, it's really fascinating to hear about your experience and what you're learning and applying every day.
Before we move on to the next speaker, I do have one question that's been posed for you, if you could provide us with a brief overview. And the question is if you could just clarify, please, what is an IBP?
[Timothy Dymond smiles. His window fills the screen.]
TD: Sorry, so an IBP, I guess there's a couple answers for that because it's used quite interchangeably. When I say IBP and I'm talking about Nunavut, I'm talking about an Inuit Benefits Plan. So, that's the plan that we will ask contractors to provide to identify the commitments that they have for employment, education, development, and subcontracting.
But it's also used outside of the Nunavut Settlement Area, as an Indigenous Benefits Plan. And there's also other acronyms that are used: Aboriginal Opportunities Consideration or Indigenous Opportunities Consideration, and they all are under, I guess, an umbrella of Aboriginal participation components.
So we've got a lot of different acronyms, but that's essentially what we're talking about, is the plan to provide benefits or commitments with your RFP.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
JS: Wonderful. Thank you again very much for sharing your perspective with us. The next speaker that I'm going to welcome is Tim Hopkins.
[Tim Hopkins sits up straighter. He has olive-toned skin and short black hair. A pair of glasses sits on top of his head. Timothy wears a patterned red, black, white, and grey button-down. His camera is aimed upward, so we see the ceiling and walls intersecting behind him.]
As noted, Tim is the President of Advantage Group, which is a 100% Indigenous share held corporation that's fully qualified under the federal government's procurement strategy for Aboriginal business.
Tim is a member of the Métis nation of Saskatchewan, and Tim is going to share with us today some of the experience that he's had with federal contracting from the perspective of an Indigenous business owner. So, welcome Tim.
[Tim smiles, and his window fills the screen. Text in a purple box identifies him: "Tim Hopkins. President, Advantage Group."]
Tim Hopkins [TH]: Thank you, Jessica. Um, maybe I'll start at the beginning. Generally a good place to start, I think. Often I don't start there.
However, about five years ago now, five or six years ago, we were looking at federal procurement and participating in, obviously, federal procurement.
And we'd come across as, I guess, my estimating team, a job down in southern Saskatchewan. And it was interesting, it had what looked like Indigenous engagement.
We were growing as a company wanting to reach out past the borders of our cities we were working in. And we noticed that as part of it, it had what we call a "set-aside" for the through the procurement strategy for Aboriginal business.
And so I was really engaged and interested in that. I hadn't participated in any of those strategies before, and so we showed up at the site meeting. We started to do some research.
I had some of my team work on something that and I—having worked federally and also provincially in Indigenous, I will say, politics over the last 30 years, it made sense, and I had really been out of that loop for quite some time, and I thought, "you know what? This is a good thing."
And so I started to get a better sense of what was going on, reached out to the people in Ottawa to get an understanding of where things were at, because up until that time I had stayed as a company, fairly small, fairly localized and regional.
And so that was our first kick at the can. We won that project and it was our beginning into a federal strategy that—things we were already doing, so it really just gave us a platform to do the things that we'd already done.
And what that did for us was it gave us the opportunity, now through the piece that strategy, because we did bid on a number of other projects from that time forward. Now quite a few, in fact. And it allowed us then to use what we know as Indigenous people, and bring it to those projects.
And then we just continue to hone that and tweak that and to the point where we did a few projects recently over the last year or two, I guess pre-COVID—last year is pre-COVID, right? We did a few projects where I sent myself or maybe only two of our key staff and then the rest we hired local.
And I liked what Timothy had to say. I thought that was really interesting. That was new that was fresh for me. What I call a weighted strategy I've found has never worked, certainly in Western Canada, from my experience.
But his approach to that weighted strategy sounded wonderful. And so we were trying to do some of what it sounds like Timothy has been able to achieve. And do it from a contracting perspective.
And so that was that was a bit of our lead-in, and that's where we started. We've done projects now federally from Toronto all the way to the borders of Alberta. We bid projects into the Arctic. We haven't won them. We worked on the Hudson Bay and the James Bay.
And this approach is unique, and it gives us an opportunity as Indigenous people to employ other Indigenous people, to train Indigenous people. And to bring more than just a sense of employment, but a strategy that I think works in communities. And works effectively.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
I hope I answered that. That's a little bit of me.
JS: Yes, thank you very much for your remarks.
I have to say it's really fascinating for me to hear from somebody who is not from the federal procurement side, but is working with federal procurement.
You answered the question, definitely. I think my question would be, are there any specific experiences that you could speak to us about with regards to either best practices or lessons learned, potential or any challenges or opportunities that you might want to flag. I think everybody would be very interested.
[Tim Hopkins' window fills the screen.]
TH: I think—so, probably... The biggest challenge for us is capacity. And as the President, I've wrestled with capacity. I mean, I've had government call me and meet with me on multiple occasions and say... I mean, the stories I could tell you, Jessica,
I could spend the whole day telling you stories of the stuff that's gone on, and some amazing stories that that we've had the opportunity to be part of, or I've had the opportunity.
But I remember one time I had infrastructure Canada, I met with them many, many years ago and they said, "yeah, we really want to work with you. We've got some great projects. We've got a $50 million project." And I'm like, OK, great, great. I can't do that. We don't have capacity.
That's the biggest thing, right? Is the capacity to do some of those things in to grow through that. And any opportunity that I've had to speak such as this, I've always said that if you're able to...
It's about taking small businesses and small Indigenous businesses and growing them if that's what they want. And then there has to be some training in there somewhere. Whether that's provided at the federal level or whether we provide that for our own people, it's essential to provide that training.
I'm a member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and I was at a similar forum last week and saying the same thing. There has to be some training or mentoring, formal or informal, so that we can go from being small businesses to big businesses.
As a company, I started out as a truck and ladder roofing company. Two guys. That's where we started. I picked up my first employee, there was a funeral in one of the communities north of here.
You know what? If you want to find someone, find them at weddings and funerals. And that's where I went. I put the word out and I met him after the funeral and him and I started this, this company that now that's travelled all over most of Canada.
And at the time we were literally truck, ladder, and two guys roofing. And this was 15 years ago.
So, that's taken a lot of work, that's taken a lot of falls and I think there's a need for that. So when contracting comes out, it needs to be reflective of where we are as Indigenous people and Indigenous businesses.
Are there big Indigenous businesses out there? Absolutely. But there's a lot of us that are still looking to grow or trying to figure out how to grow. Even if we want to grow and participating at all the various levels.
[The other windows reappear.]
JS: Thank you very much for sharing that perspective.
I know there's a number of people on my team in the audience today and we're actually responsible for the procurement strategy for Aboriginal business and working on the modernization of PSAB.
[Tim smiles and raises his brow.]
And so this type of feedback is very interesting for me, and I'm sure for everybody else who's watching today.
So thank you very much, Tim, for sharing. Appreciate it.
TH: You're welcome.
JS: The next speaker I'd like to welcome today is a speaker who's going to share with us some information from the project side of federal procurement, Lieutenant Colonel François Lagacé.
[François is a white man with short black and white hair and a black and white beard. He wears a camouflage army uniform with a Canadian flag on the upper arm. A shelf and a closet door are visible behind him.]
[Translated from French] Lieutenant-Colonel François Lagacé is a business program planner for the Canadian Forces Real Property Operations Group. He has established Indigenous procurement guidelines that promote opportunities to maximize contracts with Indigenous businesses.
He also provides rigorous oversight to ensure that each base in Canada has a minimum of two contracts in place, in addition to the overall target of 5% for Indigenous procurement. I now turn to Lieutenant-Colonel Lagacé.
François Lagacé [FL]: Thank you very much, Jessica, for the introduction.
[François' video fills the screen. White text in a purple box reads, "Lcol François Lagacé. J5, Canadian Forces Real Property Operations Group, ADM (IE), Canadian Armed Forces."]
It's really a pleasure to be here today to share more experiences on the operational side – an operator's experiences.
To provide some background, the Canadian Forces Real Property Operations group is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all infrastructure owned by the Department of National Defence across Canada.
We are talking about a very large real estate pool. The first thing we had to do about a year and a half ago, when the directive came out and the objectives, was to implement a directive.
I would like to share a number of lessons learned with you. The first is consistency. There was none. We're talking about 27 detachments across Canada. We're talking about places where the Nunavut agreement applied. We're talking about places like Bagotville, the city of Québec, Toronto, Winnipeg, up to Comox. We're really talking about places where the community, the capacity, were very different from one place to another. It was really important to consider that aspect.
Also, I'm glad that Tim touched on it, when we consulted with our contracting partner, Defence Construction Canada, one of the things that had often come out at the community level was their fear that we would focus solely on the 5% target, and that we would focus solely on value contracts, precisely to achieve that objective.
So what we wanted to do, in order to be sure to consider this point, this comment, was to go with the spirit of the policy, which was to engage with the 30 communities across Canada.
In reaching the 5% target, we put a total, a minimum, of two contracts per base, per garrison, across Canada.
Whatever the value, they're required to put two contracts in place, and then the overall objective of 5% is considered at the regional level rather than at the national level.
It's an analysis to determine what projects could be implemented, but there is a real obligation to engage the 30 local communities, and that's something that we believed was very important, especially to respond to the requests we had received.
Something else that we learned at the strategic level: the first time we put this into practice, we were a little further along in the project implementation process. It's a little more difficult and a little more complex. What we wanted to do was to ensure that planning was done as early as possible in our process.
This means that about six months to a year in advance, these projects are analyzed one by one in order to determine whether there are different contracting programs that could be applied to these projects. Depending on what it is, of course, we're talking about small- or medium-sized, but this is really an analysis that is done for each project.
In that way, we have situational knowledge of everything that will be implemented across Canada, and then we can also make adjustments and change our program or the way we operate if necessary.
At the somewhat more tactical level, the lessons that we learned naturally, as I mentioned, since the situation varies across Canada, we feel that it was really important to contact the community and to ensure that they were familiar with the program.
For this program, they mostly know that the client, like us, the Department of National Defence, that we were there and that we were setting up various projects. Various sessions have been organized throughout Canada, again with our partner in the contracting process, which is Defence Construction Canada. We have been very successful. A commitment has been made at both the military and Defence Construction Canada levels.
Another aspect that allowed us to be successful locally was to know what areas of expertise could be offered to us, and then, more importantly, the capacity. [inaudible] trend, yes, no problem. In plumbing, there is expertise. Also, when you're talking about a company that has one or two plumbers, and a contract worth millions of dollars, the capacity isn't necessarily there to respond. It was really important to have this knowledge so that we could target the program properly, or the process we were applying.
Another aspect also, that was a bit of a fear ... we realized early on that there was some reluctance, if you will, to apply for these various programs or project plans; there were various administrative processes surrounding the implementation of projects that can sometimes be scary. We're talking about reliability screening and all that.
And it was also really important to mentor these companies from start to finish so that they would be able to apply for the various projects. This is something that has also been very successful, because often large companies have processes in place, and they know the business well, and they've applied for government contracts often.
For smaller companies, these are often things they don't dare to do, precisely because of the complexity of everything involved in these processes.
Mentoring helped a lot, and then something else we did, to conclude, was to not necessarily focus on construction contracts, but to also look at smaller contracts, such as service contracts, maintenance contracts.
For example, the Québec region really looked at these options in order to find out, not necessarily about construction projects, but maintenance and service contracts, and then this encouraged small businesses, as Tim also mentioned, allowed them to grow over time, and then get a foot in the door and then become familiar with the processes. Thank you.
[François smiles. The other participants' windows appear.]
JS [Translated from French]: Thank you very much, Lieutenant-Colonel Lagacé.
Right now we've just heard from some perspectives from different players from various parts of the procurement process.
What I'd like to propose is that I have three questions that I'd like to ask, one for each of you that will allow us to tap further into your expertise from the various perspectives you bring to the conversation. I'd also like to just remind our audience today that you can send your questions to our panelists using the participate button.
[Jessica's window fills the screen.]
So again, that's the person with a raised hand that you'll see on the top right-hand banner of your screen, and those questions will be sent to us. There will be a period of question and answer that I'll move to following these three questions, and we'd be very pleased to take questions and comments from the audience, so please feel free.
So while the audience is working on some questions of what they'd like to hear the most from our panelists, I'd like to start, Timothy, if I may, with a question for yourself.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
So, the question that we'd like to pose is how can federal employees make sure that they are reaching out to the Indigenous business community and that they are engaging with Indigenous businesses in their contracting process?
TD: That's not a problem.
[His window fills the screen, with the purple text box identifying him.]
So. Early engagement effort, like I was saying before, is just paramount. So, early engagement with Indigenous businesses and communities while a project or requirement is in the concept development stage is essential. And it's most valuable when the opportunity to explore unbundling or performance-based approaches that allow for innovative solutions are being considered.
And when those types of discussions are happening we can ask, is it realistic? Is there a realistic opportunity to break a requirement down or project down into smaller requirements that will allow more specialized or smaller Indigenous firms to bid? That's something we do in the Nunavut Settlement Area as per the directive.
We also need to acknowledge that scheduling constraints too frequently present obstacles for effective engagement with Indigenous communities. Because taking the time to gather knowledge will absolutely inform the process, so it's important that we strive to ensure that there are no conflicts between solicitation periods, project milestones, schedules, and other engagement activities and cultural events.
It's important to use locally relevant means of advertising: Social media, newspapers, and radio. You gotta understand what the best of the best medium is. And we have to be sure that the information that we're communicating is clear, it's in plain language, and that it avoids technical jargon or government-speak.
And I think we really do need to make sure that the terminology we use is inclusive and respectful. You need to do your research when you're doing this to find out what Indigenous groups are in the area that you'll be contracting in. There are many different groups and they must be addressed appropriately. For example, First Nations, non-status, status, Métis, Inuit. These are important indicators to fully understand if we want to be engaging respectfully.
We hold procurement, we can hold procurement workshops and as a contracting authority, you should encourage your clients and clients should be encouraged to hold information sessions with the community in the planning stages of major projects.
To have bidders' conferences where local companies can attend. This can create an opportunity to partner or to discuss subcontracting joint ventures. We can do pre-project sessions to talk about the requirements, including information on what to expect, while contracting with the federal government.
And I think it would be also very useful for many to run through the tendering documents including these IBPs, to develop a level of comfort and to help minimize the confusion, in what I'm sure many will agree is the sometimes overly complicated Federal government RFPs.
We can communicate project needs as far as labour equipment and required certification and we can—something that we do often is provide advance notification of procurements to designated Indigenous organizations. Or we can host public forums to network with interested bidders.
[The other speakers' windows appear.]
JS: That was a fantastic list. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.
So, Tim, I'm going to pose a question to you next, if that works well for you, and I pre-empted portions of this question with a question that I asked you earlier. But I'll still pose it in a slightly nuanced way.
As an Indigenous business owner are there specific actions that you would like to see taken either by procurement specialists, but potentially also by others in the contracting process? So, project managers ... well, clients, I suppose, is where it begins.
But what specific actions, if any, would you like to see taken that could make the procurement process better, easier, more productive? And just any thoughts that you might have on that would be wonderful. And I have a secondary question to follow up with after.
[Tim's mouth moves silently.]
You're on mute, Tim. It's the phrase of 2020-2021.
[Jessica chuckles and Tim, François, and Timothy smile.]
TH: Whoops, I thought I wasn't going to do that this time, but OK. You're in reference to Indigenous engagement, correct?
JS: Well, I suppose it can be anything you like. Really my question is not focusing only on the procurement specialist, but also on clients who might be the person who has the requirement as opposed to the specific contracting officer, or potentially a project manager who could also be the client, it doesn't really matter. What I'm asking is: in the procurement process overall, we've spoken about some of the barriers. For example, you mentioned capacity. So I'm asking the question, I guess, in a turnaround way and asking what would you suggest potentially that could happen to make the process better?
And when I say better, I guess I'm asking you to define that. Is it easier for businesses? Is it that there's more contracts that are awarded? Please interpret how you will.
TH: I think if I throw a blanket over the blanket question you asked, it would be meeting—touché, I'll throw it back at you.
[Tim's video window fills the screen, with the purple box identifying him.]
It would be more meaningful engagement at all levels. And I really think that's what's needed. I can speak to an example right now. It's not federal, it was provincial. I get a cold call. "Hey, we've got this tender out there." I already knew it. It's in a community that I'm more than familiar with. I was there the week before I got the call.
And they said, "we're tendering this and we were wondering if you're interested. We know you bid on the previous two a number of years back, blah blah, blah." And I said, "yeah, I might be interested. I'll check it out. I'll go to the tender search engine and look."
Again, it wasn't federal, it was provincial. And that was it. That was the engagement. The project itself, just as an example, was the oldest building in my province. Some of you will what that is. It was and is absolutely a heritage although not designated heritage building. The community—First Nation and Métis communities use it, have used it for 150 years. It's a special building for the people.
And that was the engagement that I got from the procurement specialist. That was it. And I think there's a need for more of that. I mean, we had done—so with that one that we had done two previous projects.
We, again, similar tendering process, and we involved the community. I had the school. I knew some of the teachers in the school. I had them bring their kids to come and handle some of the material.
Some of the stuff that we were working with hadn't been physically handled in almost 200 years. And so we were allowing people to, in a safe way, come out and look at that. Having schools and teachers come and engage. And so we took that on just because that's what we do. As an Indigenous business, we want to engage with the community. It's just what we do. We thrive on that.
It's like sitting around a group of people and not talking. We want to chat. We want to get involved. We want to meet people and if we know them, great. Maybe we have connections. So I really think that's where it needs to go is that a greater sense of engagement, and at all levels.
And I don't have all the specific answers for that, but I know that that sense of engagement will do what it needs to do. It'll bring Indigenous people to the table.
[The other windows reappear.]
JS: Thank you for that answer. Very generous answer, thank you. It's interesting, the second part of my question was how can government ensure that Indigenous suppliers feel more supported? So, I think you've answered the second part in that answer as well. So, much appreciated.
TH: Jessica, if I can say something to it. It's a bit of a sell job. I mean, I've done the procurement circuit with the federal government. I've travelled around city to city and spoke at various conferences and stuff, and it is. It's a bit of a sell job.
[Tim's window fills the screen.]
So, I'll do that if you give me 30 seconds here right now. There's so much value to working with Indigenous people, Indigenous communities. And it's exciting. I mean, the people that I've ended up working with, the contractors from the federal side. If they could get on site or even be involved, it's really—it's cool because the amount of information that I bring forward or we bring forward because we engage, right? It's one thing to look at a project, but it's another thing to get involved and see what we actually do.
It makes for a very dynamic and holistic approach to project management, and project coordination. It really does. And if I can pitch that to the federal side to say, "you know what? It gets pretty cool." The stuff that we found out and that we've had to do and navigate through is unbelievable that that would have stopped other projects cold in their tracks. And literally would have stopped other projects.
But because we can get into the community, we do that, that initial with the elders, chief, Counsel, Métis homeland, we do these things. That's just what we do. The engagement that we produce that we then contribute federally is ... if the federal side is interested, it's amazing. There's my sell job.
[Tim smiles. The other participants reappear.]
JS: It was a good one, well done.
[Tim and Jessica chuckle.]
Thank you, thank you very much for your input. I appreciate it.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lagacé, I have a question for you as well. What could contracting authorities and procurement specialists...
[Jessica's video freezes.]
... do to make it easier for you to do business by putting contracts in place while keeping the rights and interests of Indigenous people in mind?
FL: Yes, absolutely.
[François' window fills the screen, with the purple text box identifying him.]
That's a great question because we rely a lot on contracting authorities for this initiative to be successful. One of the questions or fears that was raised at the beginning was that this would slow down the implementation of projects, which is not at all the case.
What's important for the contracting authorities, as mentioned earlier, is to really have a good knowledge of the services that can be provided as well as the capacity.
It's important that this be done in each location, because we're implementing projects on military bases and even in places like the Gaspé Peninsula and more remote locations where we have armouries, there are also projects going on.
These are not places where we have a lot of buildings, but where there is probably a capacity or potential to set up dedicated contracts. That's very important, and the way we can help them is by ensuring that our projects are planned in advance.
As Timothy mentioned—he actually mentioned many things that, if put in place, will definitely help us, but one is the intention, if you will, of implementing a project. Sometimes that's a huge help, because it allows Indigenous businesses to be prepared if they need to hire.
Because we agree that if it's a high-value contract, it can definitely be attractive for that company to hire people, and that means that there will be a contract, and then an income that will be practically guaranteed. That's something that would also be considered.
And then another one I'd like to mention —it's not necessarily just at the construction level, but if you're talking about the maintenance contracts that are often put in place, it's the length of the contract.
I think the role of the contracting authority in this respect is important because a one-year contract, for example, versus a five-year contract, well, the level of interest may be different, and then for a five-year contract, the company can basically afford to commit, invest in itself, hire staff, secure equipment, or take training as well. The length of the contract or project can also have a big impact on success.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
JS: Thank you very much, Lieutenant-Colonel. Thank you all very much for the insightful contributions that you've provided today. I think you provided a great number of lessons learned and best practices that we can use to really try to build a more robust and mutually beneficial relationship between the federal government and Indigenous businesses when it comes to federal procurement.
What I'd like to do now is turn to questions that have been posed by the audience and I have to say, I was a little nervous around whether or not we would get any questions or whether I'd be making up questions for 38 minutes.
[Jessica and the participants smile.]
But I'm pleased to share that the questions are flying in here, so this is wonderful. There's clearly a great amount of interest in the subject that the three of you have brought forward today.
So, what I'll do is, I know this puts you a little more on the spot because they are questions that people are posing in real time. I will approach this in a kind way and not ask anything that's really pointy or difficult. I don't think that's in here, anyway.
[The participants smile.]
But I'll start with, then, there's a question, actually first for Tim Hopkins.
The question is, you made reference to the fact that you'd never before experienced a weighted approach such as that that Timothy had described as being used in the various procurements he oversees. So, the question is, you said you'd never seen it work. Do you have any specifics that you could offer around what you've observed? Why you think that may or may have not worked? Any information you could answer in that vein?
[Tim Hopkins smiles.]
TH: OK, I've unmuted myself.
Let's make that the go to question of 2021.
[He chuckles, and the others smile. Tim's window fills the screen.]
Yeah, it's a good question. They're all good questions. The weighting that I've seen has been such that in the tender it will say something to the effect of very, very simple. You have to have 20% labour engagement, and I'm being very general. It may get a little more granular than that, but it doesn't go beyond that.
And there may be some caveats to how they want that reported in the tendering process or in the tender itself, but generally that's what it looks like. It may be a little bit more than that, and with a little bit more bells and whistles, and that's great.
And I was sitting a number of years ago in Ottawa at a meeting with Environment Canada and a medium to large size environmental firm and then ourselves we were looking at how we can engage together and participate in a number of Indigenous environmental projects and we got onto the subject of weighted tenders and of course myself with a bit of a big mouth, that wasn't shut that day and probably should have been, said they don't work.
And I threw it out there like that just so we can all talk about it and just get comfortable with it. And the environmental company who I was familiar with very comfortable with—and they're engineers. And they're good writers. And so are we, actually.
They very plainly said, and it's just off the top, they said, "You know what? We can write that out. Properly." And it's absolutely the truth. I mean, in a tendering process with that type of weighting, you can write it in, and make it look good.
As an example of what that looks like—so, Boots on the Ground, and I know specific projects like that and I know the people working in them, they engage with the community, the Indigenous community, First Nation, or Métis and they hand out some rakes and some shovels and there you go.
And it's written in and it works, and that's fine. And I'm not saying that's the wrong thing to do. That's a great place to start, but let's make sure that on that type of weighting, that's not the answer for everything. And that's my point to that, Jessica, is those types of weightings.
And I know the guys that had the shovel. Or the rake, and literally the rake. And that's all they did. And I think we can engage more than that. Because I think there's more value in the communities than just the guy that can hold a rake or push a broom or shovel. And I'm not saying that's not a good place to work from, but let's do more than that. That's a good example right there.
[The other panelists' windows reappear.]
JS: OK, thank you. Thank you very much. What I'm going to do is jump to a question that's related, but it's actually posed, well, I would assume it's post for Timothy because it's specifically around Western region.
But I think it's also a great opportunity, Timothy, if you have any sort of response also that you'd like to add in your answer to the question to what Tim had just raised. It might be an interesting segue as well.
So, the question that was raised is around—you made a reference, Timothy, to the weighting that Western region sometimes uses, either in land claim areas, or sometimes, you said that you started to do that outside of the comprehensive land claim agreement rights holders areas.
And so the question is, to get to the point, how did Western region of PSPC decide on the weighting of 30% or 35%? And could you speak around that a little bit please?
TD: Yes, OK, so I'll just say right off the top, the Western region didn't decide on the 30 to 35%.
[Timothy Dymond's window fills the screen.]
So, the 30 to 35% weighting for Inuit Benefits Criteria is something specifically that was agreed to with Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and the reason behind having that high weight to that Inuit benefits plan was to really ensure that if you were submitting an RFP, it really is going to count for something. And it does.
So, that's the answer to 30, 35%, and so in other land claim areas and with other IOCs and AOCs, all those benefits plan, those weights change, and but in the Nunavut Settlement Area, that is the highest. That's the highest weight that we've had for a benefits plan, and it's prescribed in the directive.
And I want to speak to Tim's question as well, because I was happy to hear initially when you're saying, "yeah, what they're doing something that might work," and I think that what we're trying to do with these benefits plans is make sure that the opportunities that are coming through these requirements are meaningful and that the work that's being offered also is meaningful and as well as the training, and so the way that we've weighted it—and this is something that we're trying. We're sort of like flying a plane at the same time we're building it.
But what we're trying to do is, you know, establish a rating where we look at both the dollar values and the commitment of time, so we can hopefully establish a balance when you're—because when you're being evaluated as a—we will ultimately look at your commitment as percentage of the work and the value that's being done. And so what that will help us to do is establish a weighting that's based on a contractor's overall commitment relative to the other work that they are doing.
I think that maybe what we could also do and look at doing and something that I think is something that we should try, or look at trying in the future, is being able to weight the positions that are being provided.
So, we're not looking at ... so, there's a there's a weight associated to the commitment to have an Indigenous person in a role that is more substantial, and that's something I think that we could look at doing. And I'll also just speak to something that was said earlier in that training and development, because it's something that I've been thinking and I think it's something that we're trying to do is that so in the benefits plan, we have a portion for training that identifies that we're going to—or the contractor is going to commit to have on-the-job training or development, but I think even that, we're doing that when a requirement starts.
And I think that what we also need to start looking at doing is to have that sort of very, very early engagement and understanding, and capacity assessment, to start looking and talking to communities well, well before. So, as soon as we know that there are going to be projects coming in the future, when we know what type of work and what type of certifications and different things that be required.
Maybe that's a good time to really start reaching out very, very far in advance to see if there's ways that we can help to build that capacity or to be able to get in front of it. I hope that answers the question.
[The other panelists' windows appear.]
JS: That was a wonderful answer.
Thank you very much, Timothy.
[Translated from French] The next question is for Lieutenant-Colonel Lagacé.
The question is: Do you have best practices to share for identifying Indigenous capacity to address needs?
FL [Translated from French]: As was mentioned earlier, I will start at the beginning.
[François' window fills the screen.]
Of course, the easy answer would be to search the Registry, but we want to go beyond that.
Then, when we look at the history of each base, we've always maintained a good relationship with the 30 communities surrounding the base and the environment, and we've always had regular contact with them, whether for various common issues, but also for—we're talking about the obligation to consult, which is something we already do.
We know the neighbouring communities well, we have points of contact with the people in charge, and then something we've found important is really the trust aspect that we can have with these people and then the community, and having an entry point is very important.
Often these people who are our points of contact are a great way to have some access, or to communicate with the community.
That really allows us to meet with them and then talk to them, and also to find out a little bit about their interests, what capacity they might have, and especially their capacity.
If these are things that are not necessarily known initially, these are things that we really want to acquire as information, and the contacts that we already have in the various locations are an excellent entry point to be able to have access to this information.
[The other windows reappear.]
JS [Translated from French]: OK. Thank you very much, Lieutenant-Colonel.
The second part of that question is about the mentoring to help businesses do business with the government. How is it actually done?
FL [Translated from French]: Yes.
Let me use the phrase "The elephant in the room," we can address it.
A fairly important aspect is reliability screening, security screening.
You know, we're not hiding anything, we're talking about fingerprinting, and that's a fairly lengthy process.
Everyone has to go through it at work.
Right off the bat, this is something that can be scary, that will scare everyone, but naturally, when you're talking to the various Indigenous businesses, this is something that can look big and scary.
Basically, this is a specific example. It's to mentor them through this process, which can be complicated, because there is the business, that has to be certified, and then on top of that, there are the employees who have to be certified as well.
This is a step that can be frightening and at the same time seem complicated.
This is something specific where we will accompany them from beginning to end, and then help them to submit the necessary applications so that they can become certified to enter into a contract with the government.
[The others' windows reappear.]
JS: OK. Thank you very much. So now—I'm going to pose a question that will be for all three of you to weigh in, whoever would like to. It's on a different vein that I think all three of you could potentially answer. So, the question is, "I'm posing this question as a complete outsider." Asks the question.
How would one know what cultural events or specific timings of undertakings in a community that are seasonal could impact the project, and how would you go about doing that research and finding out that information to inform yourself?
[There's a pause, and Timothy and François smile.]
Are there any volunteers?
[Tim Hopkins waves his hand.]
TD: I guess I can go first...
go ahead, but I'll just say 'ask.' Ask and find out. And the more sort of formal response would be, based on the past experiences and the folks that have been working on projects previously, you can find out that way. And then also you can reach out to Indigenous services Canada, which is something that we frequently do to make sure that the—and to get any insights from them.
But I'll stop there. Go ahead, Tim. I'm sorry to jump there.
[Timothy Dymond smiles. His audio cuts out.]
TH: Oh, are we here? Am I on?
[The other participants nod.]
No, that was good. It's such a loaded question. And I'm all about loaded questions, by the way.
[Tim laughs, and he smiles through his anecdote.]
I'm the kind of guy—I've always said it this way, Timothy, and everyone here, I remember how many times as a kid, you'd be standing on a little dock or something, there'd be four or five kids standing there and it would be cold, it'd be spring, maybe
May, and you stand there and I'd always push the kid in beside me and say how is it?
[Tim chuckles. His audio and video are slightly out of time with each other as he continues.]
You know, I always jump first and ask questions later. I don't know. So it's good. I saw some of the questions there and I think they're good. I think we should be able to ask questions and just engaged and not think that we each and everyone of us have all the right answers. That's why I said you go first, you jump first, I'll push you in either way, and I think that's important, right?
So the question, I agree with Timothy. Just ask. Start there, have a willingness. When it comes to procurement, ask the question for yourself as federal civil servants and that was one of the questions there, civil servants. What are you trying to achieve?
What are you trying to accomplish?
If you just want to run a project out, you just wanted you to create it fast as you can, as cheap as you can, then do what you have to do. Is that the right way? I've got my opinion, but if you're looking for engagement, if you want value to the project, if you want a project that potentially has more value than you could even imagine.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
Then, and it's Indigenous content, somehow, somewhere, then engage the communities. And, whether that's local community, the national Indigenous community, then get involved. It's really what you want, and as a civil servant, that's where it comes down to.
And as policy-makers, that's what it's about, in my opinion. And I'm the front guy. I'm the boots on the ground guy. I'm the guy, if you show up on site, you'll see me there somewhere at some point. Maybe I'm having a coffee, maybe I'm up on something or whatever, and if you don't know—you know what, and I've always said it this way, I can't build a brick wall to save my life. And don't ask me, well you can ask me. I might try but it'll look terrible, and you certainly won't pay me for it, that's for sure.
But you know what? I have staff that can, and they can do an unbelievable job of it. And so my thinking then, is get the right person to do that. And so if you don't know what to ask, then find that right person that can help you. And whether that's, as
Timothy mentioned, federal support, then do it. And that's, I think, the approach that really needs to be taken here.
I can pinpoint answer specifics, but that's where it comes from. And I'll always say this, as Indigenous community, we are the cultural border crossing people. We can cross those cultural borders between federal government and the communities. In every situation, absolutely not. But we also know where to ask and I'm more comfortable to get in there and ask.
I don't know the Anishinaabe communities that we've worked with. I'm not Anishinaabe, but I do know and I'm comfortable to work with the people in those kinds of communities that we have worked with to go in there and find Chief and Council and the secretary and whoever it is and just start asking.
I'm comfortable doing that. I brought engineers on site with me and, oh my goodness. The potential offences that were being created were amazing and also really thrilling because I had the opportunity to train some of our engineers and talk to them about cultural protocol. And you know, maybe you don't need to be so loud and overbearing when you're talking to an elder.
[Timothy Dymond nods.]
You know, and so it's just about getting in there and doing it and finding the right people to do that. And in some cases that may be us. In some cases that may be another Indigenous business, but I think that's what it becomes about. There is no—I don't have the rubber stamp here. Hold on, actually, I do! No, I'm just kidding.
[The others chuckle.]
To solve all this stuff. There is none. But you've got to get in there and start and start with Indigenous people because they know their own communities and it won't be perfect. It'll be messy. We've had some great projects, amazing projects, the reviews have been unbelievable, and we've had other projects that you know what? We finished them. We learned lots. And we'll keep doing them, but they weren't fantastic and that's life. And we're growing. too.
So to sum that up, I think I'd say, what are you trying to accomplish in federal procurement? Where are you going? And if it's to build relationships, which I think it should be, and meaningful relationships and create value, and I believe at the end of the day, overall collectively better projects run and done? Then work with Indigenous engagement.
Is a weighted set-aside completely wrong? Absolutely not. But if the federal government creates something and then puts a stamp on it and says that's it, I think that's wrong. It's flexible, it's a moving target.
[Timothy and Jessica nod.]
It needs to change.
I personally like the set-asides. I think it's the guy standing on the dock, right? Push him in. Let's just do it. I think at the end of the day, and I'll say this, is it's long overdue.
[The others nod.]
FL [Translated from French]: Jessica, I'd like to add something, if I may.
[Jessica nods. François Lagacé's window fills the screen.]
In addition to asking the question directly, which is a good method, I think that it's important to be flexible.
Basically, to use a flexible approach, and just to give a specific example, we often ask the question, but these are things that are so deeply rooted in the culture and the region that they won't even think to tell us.
An example. We organized a meeting during the week they were going hunting. It was obvious to them that everyone was going hunting, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that this was the time they went hunting.
It's something that someone from the city or from outside the city can't necessarily envision, and even they wouldn't necessarily have thought to mention it, because it's part of their routine, and part of their customs, and it's something that's kind of obvious to them. I think we have to remember what I said. You have to be flexible and then you have to be ready to adapt to different circumstances as well.
[The other three windows reappear.]
JS: Thank you to the three of you for those very interesting answers.
Going to move on to a set of two questions, I would say, that really are around a theme of community or stakeholder engagement.
So to begin—and again, I'm not going to pose this to a specific person. I think all three of you will have perspectives on this.
So the question to begin with is, what does community engagement actually mean? Does it mean supporting the suppliers or does it mean going to the local community potentially for feedback on where the project will be undertaken, or something else?
[The three participants stare off for a few moments. Jessica smiles.]
FL [Translated from French]: Maybe I can start with this, and then I just want to give an example, and that will help answer the question as well.
[François' video fills the screen.]
At one point, we wanted to target employment, hiring. We weren't talking about projects, we were talking about jobs. And then what we did was, we looked at different nations, different locations, what they had in terms of job fairs.
Then we took part in these job fairs to inform them of the jobs that were available, that there were jobs on the base. And basically, the approach in this case was to use processes that were already in place, that were in the community, and then to pair up with them, to join them.
This approach worked, and it also works at the business level. Basically, how do we reach them? It's through what already exists within the community.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
JS: Thank you, Lieutenant-Colonel. Timothy or Tim, would you have any thoughts, or I can move to the next question?
TH: I can speak to that, I think. I think it involves the community as well as potentially the suppliers.
[Tim Hopkins' window fills the screen.]
I know for myself we've worked with many communities and I'll give you a real quick example. We just finished project a week ago. It wasn't a federal project. It was a provincial project. A lot of our work this last year, this COVID year has been provincial as opposed to federal, and I think we all know why. Things have changed this past year.
And in this project, it was a small dollar value project, below $100,000, and we employed in the space of less than one month, 18 people. And some people, it was an enormous amount of paperwork. The amount of work that had to be done to bring a person on for two shifts, we'll say, or three shifts or whatever it was, was just it was horrific. I mean, 18 people and you're rotating through this cycle of pay in period, etc., etc. It was a lot of work for a small dollar value project.
But we conferenced and communicated with the Métis community, as well as the First Nation community. There was two of them, and it was a joint project, joined effort. We didn't have to, as the holding contractor, to engage in anybody, we could have just got in and on the project and been done with it, brought our own people even.
But instead we chose to bring no one from our side and completely use the community, Métis and First Nation. And in the northern Saskatchewan, that's really common. You'll often see a community that has Métis literally side by side with First Nation communities, Métis homeland and First Nation.
The value for us was to support the community. There were not many other jobs and certainly with COVID there was very few. And so we made sure that as many people we could, based on what the needs of what the Métis side and the First Nation side had, we supported those people by providing them even with just a little bit of money in their pockets, with some employment. And that's what we did.
It was a huge amount of work on our part, but the benefits were, in my opinion, significant. It was contributing back to the community, a lot of work but well worth it.
The other side to that is we've done other projects where the suppliers have been local. Well, I'm going to support local suppliers if I can, for a lot of reasons.
One, it's easier if they can provide me the same thing, and often that local supplier in a number of cases have been Indigenous as well, so I'll support that, and in other cases they may not have been an Indigenous supplier, however they were hiring local people.
So, I think it really depends on the situation and in those types of scenarios, I'm always, and have been as a company owner, that's our mandate, is to support Indigenous people at all levels.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
TD: I should add something to this too and I would say all of those pieces, you know, what does community engagement mean?
[Timothy Dymond's window fills the screen.]
It does mean supporting suppliers through their work that they are doing. And it does mean getting feedback from the community itself on the front end understand how we can best go through this process together.
And then at the end, the feedback to be able to learn where we can modify this process to make it better. And I also agree very much with the other panelists as well, and what they're saying.
[The other three windows reappear.]
JS: Much appreciated. So what I'd like to do next is pose—it's two questions that are actually a little more technical in nature. I would anticipate that probably Timothy would answer. And just be clear on what I'd like to do is pose those two technical questions, but maintain a few more minutes for more in-depth ones. I just didn't want to ignore these two.
So, the first question is related to the role of federal procurement officers with supporting Indigenous, well Inuit firms to potentially register on the IFR. Is the role there for federal procurement officers? If yes, what is it?
And then the second question, and Timothy, if you're not comfortable with this one, I can actually weigh in a bit. The question is that you mentioned the opportunity to unbundle contracts in specific situations, and so the question probably pertains to sort of more like old school procurement officers like me who equate that to contract splitting. And we're told never to do that, which I know, it's not the same thing, I just—that's where I anticipate the question is coming from. So, also there's a question of whether you'd be able to speak to that.
TD: OK, thanks. I'll try to tackle the first one and then we'll see how it goes and we'll see what we can do with the second one.
And then the second question is a question that we hear quite a bit. Especially when we're talking about the Inuit directive, because there's a line sometimes and so people kind of are trying to sort of figure out what that is.
[Timothy's window fills the screen.]
So, this is also a good question about supporting the recruitment of Nunavut firms, our Inuit firms to register. So, I think there is a role in terms of when we were going through the engagement process and were tendering requirements and were planning. I think it's a good idea to reach out, and we do reach out per project or per procurement.
And I think there is a role to play there, I think that role is to be able to assist in helping Inuit firms that want to register and in where they have to go and what they need to do. I think that there is also a broader role and there are different things that we can do in terms of a more robust communications strategy, too. We kind of send that message in the NSA on the importance and the benefits of being on the Inuit firm registry.
That being said, the registry is not something that the Government of Canada manages, and it's something that's controlled by the NTI, so I think there's also some sensitivity there in terms of not wanting to overstep and broadly talk about the Inuit firm registry or do broad communications. But I think that's—so, I guess I should probably leave that answer there. I do think there's a role but I think we're still trying to navigate through more what that role is like more definitely, if that makes sense.
[The other speakers' windows reappear.]
JS: Absolutely. And would I be able to ask you if you could speak to the unbundling question, please?
TD: Yes, OK, so I'll start it and then maybe if you want you might be able to finish it if there's some things that I missed.
[They both smile, and Jessica nods. Timothy's window fills the screen.]
Because the way that we look at this, is it like, unbundling is not contract splitting. The reason, because I know that that's sometimes the question that we get, and so, you have to think about what the intent is behind what it is that we're doing, right? So, when we unbundled requirements, we're unbundling them to make them available for smaller, more specialized firms because we want to increase, the level of business that's happening within the NSA. We're not unbundling and making these smaller requirements so we can dole them out easily, or bypass any processes, or try and direct contracts for those reasons.
So I think that in a nutshell that's the difference, and it is a question that we do get and it is something that we talk out and talk through often. I don't know if, Jessica, if you have anything you wanted to add to that.
[The other participants' windows reappear.]
JS: Thanks, Timothy, I think that's a great answer. My answer would also have centred around really asking yourself the question about the intent, so I think you've really hit the nail on the head. If you're doing it to try to circumvent something, you're probably contract splitting.
[Timothy and François nod.]
TD: Absolutely, yeah.
JS: So, thank you very much for that answer, Timothy. Unfortunately, I won't have time to pose another question to all three. We've just had so many questions that we've run out of time to pose them all. So, I would like to turn to providing some closing remarks.
I'd like to begin by thanking our speakers very, very much for your willingness to be here today to participate and for the generosity of the answers that you've provided. I'm not aware of the exact number of participants that we have registered and watching this right now, but the last number I heard was quite high, which to me is a great indication of the interest that exists in the subject of Indigenous procurement, and also the importance of this subject area.
[Jessica's window fills the screen.]
And it means a lot to me that you're here and that we've had these questions and the opportunity to have this discussion. So, thank you very much.
On behalf of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Canada School of Public Service, I'd also like to extend that thanks, beyond from myself also from the organizations that organize this and put this all together for us. Thank you very much.
And to our participants, the Canada School of Public Service is very interested in hearing from you on what your thoughts are about this session that you've attended today. They invite you to a complete an electronic evaluation that you will receive in the coming days to provide some valuable feedback that will allow them to continue to provide quality subject matter training for everybody who's interested.
Thank you to all the participants who joined us from across Canada today. We look forward to engaging with you again in future and wish you a wonderful day. Take care.
TD: Thank you.
[The panelists' windows reappear, and they smile. Tim waves. The call fades out into white text on a purple screen reading, "For more information, please visit the Indigenous Services Canada website. canada.ca/school." The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears. Its pages turn, closing it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. The government of Canada Wordmark: the word "Canada" with a small Canadian flag waving over the final "a." The screen fades to black.]