Randi Ray seeks to advance partnerships between Indigenous peoples and Canadian businesses
Randi Ray believes it is time to reset the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, between First Nations communities and business.
For the Sudbury entrepreneur, it’s time to restore the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship. The treaties are what she calls the original founding documents of Canada.
Through his Hanmer-based consulting business, Miikana (an Anishinaabemowin word for “the way”), Ray is passionate about helping to bridge the socio-economic divide in the areas of educational programming, leadership, community and economic development. , program design and governance.
The original intent of the treaties, as enunciated by his forward-thinking ancestors, rulers of sovereign nations in their own right, was to agree to share the land and its natural wealth with European settlers. Treaties meant peace, prosperity, integrity and values.
But instead of sharing trillions of dollars in generational wealth from places like the mineral-rich Sudbury basin, the reciprocal relationship sought by Indigenous peoples has instead devolved into racist restrictions, policies and practices like residential schools. and the Indian Act still in force.
Companies need to know that history, understand that context, Ray said, before meaningful discussions with Indigenous communities can take place.
For Ray, there can be no reconciliation without truth.
“We have to look back before we look forward.”
Ray is the founder of two companies, Miikana and Noojimo Health, the latter being the first Indigenous-owned virtual mental health clinic and workplace wellness group in Canada. Together, the two companies employ 17.
The impetus to create these businesses came from the demands and needs of the community. Ray hopes these opportunities will convince members who have left the reserve to come back and help build capacity.
A member of the Flying Post First Nation, Ray draws inspiration from his father Murray Ray, Chief of the Flying Post and one of Ontario’s oldest leaders for nearly 30 years.
The education of all of its members remains one of its long-standing priorities, which is why Ray considers herself a lifelong learner. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from Nipissing University, focusing on sustainable First Nations leadership development.
Another of its priorities is economic sovereignty.
“Sovereignty of our communities means that our communities thrive,” Ray said, “and are empowered to make economic decisions for themselves and govern themselves in a way that works for them.”
Ray’s journey into entrepreneurship mirrors the barriers faced by many young Indigenous entrepreneurs. Due to systemic barriers like the Indian Act, access to capital remains a huge stumbling block.
When Ray started her mental health business, she self-funded the business.
“I’m building (this), but it’s always a barrier that First Nations people face.
Through his consultancy, Ray and his team have worked with approximately 100 clients, many in the extractive industries, others on the government side, in the education and healthcare sectors.
Progressive organizations know they need to engage with First Nations communities in the areas where they operate. Some need help with this awareness.
The focus of his consulting business is bringing people together to have thoughtful conversations.
First Nations want to participate in the greater Canadian economy, with ethical partners, but not at the cost of giving up their autonomy and rights, she said.
“How do we move this conversation forward in a fair way that brings us back to this treaty relationship? »
One of the ways to close the gap is to create sourcing opportunities. This helps communities get a collective foot in the door. And it can start as simple as buying corporate Christmas gifts from a small, Indigenous-owned business, Ray said.
“I’m trying to change the way these big companies spend so I can create more opportunities for Indigenous businesses.
On a larger scale, it can evolve into mutually beneficial partnership opportunities with industry.
One of the successes she cites is Flying Post Camp and Logistics, a joint venture between Flying Post First Nation and Morris Modular of Sudbury.
The company is a spin-off that emerged from the construction of IAMGOLD’s Côté Gold open pit mine in the Gogama region. They provide remote workforce housing and modular housing for construction workers and eventually mining workforce over the life of the mine.
It is an example of the enormous mutual benefits that can be achieved in a shared territory.
“It’s about participating meaningfully in the economy to create one for ourselves. That’s what we want,” Ray said.
“There’s a lot Canadian businesses can learn about how Indigenous peoples are doing things in a sustainable way, with future generations in mind.
While a lot of progress has been made over the years, there’s still a lot of work to be done, Ray said.
“We are starting to tell the truth. We’re starting to tell the truth about what’s happened in this country and it’s opened a lot of people’s eyes, to be able to have these conversations in a meaningful way.