Reflections on Truth and Reconciliation

Giulia Cirillo, Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources and Global Communications Officer at PSP Investments posted a comment on LinkedIn, The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation—a time for recognition, respect and awareness:

The first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation acknowledges and pays respect to the contributions made by Indigenous communities throughout Canada’s history. It also renders more visible the deep red line that highlights a tragic reality whose magnitude we are only beginning to fully understand and recognize. 

Earlier this year, headlines around the world focused on the discovery of hundreds of children’s unmarked graves near the sites of residential schools. Because of poor record-keeping, the true number of children’s deaths remains unknown, but it is believed to be much higher than reported.

These grim discoveries shed light on the consequences of past measures taken to assimilate Indigenous Peoples, their cultures and languages. They uncover tragic and shameful reminders of the systemic racism, discrimination and injustice that Indigenous Peoples have faced and continue to face in a country considered to be one of the most open, compassionate and tolerant in the world.

Once absent voices now lead the conversation

Wherever we may be in Canada, our collective ties with Indigenous Peoples are always a heartbeat away. Even though, once upon a time, lands did not have borders, we respectfully acknowledge that PSP Investments’ main business office is located in Montréal, on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) and Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Peoples. This land has long been used for gathering and trade, and it is a place all of us are proud to call home.

Through the focused and meaningful work of our Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Council and its eight Affinity Groups, our Indigenous Peoples Affinity Group has been very active organizing PSP-wide events that have deepened our knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures.

This year, the Affinity Group’s members invited us to explore the theme of economic reconciliation. They organized a series of internal roundtable discussions that provided firsthand insight and increased our understanding of priorities and interests related to economic development. We were honoured to host and hear from our guests including: Keith Martell, Director, President and Chief Executive Officer of First Nations Bank of Canada;  Sharleen Gale, Chief Councillor of the Fort Nelson First Nation; Steve Berna, Chief Operating Officer of the First Nations Finance Authority; Jeffrey Cyr, Managing Partner of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners; and Niilo Edwards, Executive Director of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition.

Recognizing, honouring and remembering

Many of us are still not fully aware of Indigenous People’s histories, experiences and legacies.

This is why the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation presents all Canadians with an opportunity to collectively reflect on our past, present and future. In doing so, with openness and empathy, we can pass a new and informed legacy to our  children, one that builds bridges of recognition, respect and healing from a foundation of equity, inclusion, diversity and respect.

Today, I am proud to wear orange, and to stand in allyship with all my colleagues at PSP Investments.

I am glad Ms. Cirillo posted this thoughtful and well-written comment.

All of Canada's large pensions paused to reflect today and support Indigenous people.

Today is the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and it's a time to reflect on the plight and mistreatment of Indigenous people in Canada, a time for Canadians to own our own truth:

Canadians are being called to "own your own truth" when it comes to the country's history and treatment of Indigenous people on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The day was made a federal statutory holiday earlier this year, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended in its 94 calls to action. It will be held annually on Sept. 30.

It honours the children who died while being forced to attend residential schools and the survivors, families and communities still affected by the system's legacy.

I had a long and great lunch with two "giants" in the pension and money management field today. 

Of course we talked about the significance of this day, the shameful treatment of Indigenous people and the discovery of more than 1,100 unmarked graves so far which has triggered a national reckoning over Canada's legacy of residential schools.

The national outrage is palpable as it should be. These government-funded boarding schools were part of policy to attempt to assimilate Indigenous children and destroy Indigenous cultures and languages.

We live in a time when diversity & inclusion are celebrated and yet this is a grim reminder that we cannot progress as a country unless we come to terms with the past and really take a hard look at our society and the way we treat the most disadvantaged groups

I'm a stickler for diversity & inclusion, I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk. Longtime readers of my blog know I find it the treatment of Indigenous people and disabled Canadians shameful and I call on all leaders who read my comments to stop talking about diversity & inclusion and start acting on it.

Importantly, it's not just about hiring more people with disabilities, more Indigenous people, women or visible minorities, it's about a major change in culture and thinking at organizations that have hereto been stuck in the past. 

The two gentlemen I had lunch with today brought up a great point, just like there's a lot of nonsense and greenwashing in ESG investing, there's a lot of nonsense in diversity & inclusion too.

"I would say there's a lack of diversity of thought at all these organizations," one of them shared. He added: “Diversity matters but inclusion matters even more to create synergies and value.”

I totally agree that inclusion matters more but in order to get diversity of thought, you need to hire people from all walks of life, people who have experienced different life paths and experiences. 

You also need to hire people who are open, tolerant and appreciative of differences and yet ready to take a stance on issues and let their opinions be known.

It's useless hiring a diverse workforce which stays mute out of fear of rocking the boat but that's what you need sometimes, people who stick their neck out and aren't scared to voice their concerns or opinions.

I know, it's easy for me to state this, I have my blog, answer to nobody and it is read by everyone including very influential people in the pension industry but I honestly fear that we are headed in the wrong direction in many organizations and the biggest problem is groupthink and the overt or subconscious suppression of diversity of thought is a huge problem. 

There was something PSP's CEO Neil Cunningham said about how taking part in one of their Affinity Group allowed him to realize "subconscious biases". 

That's great but I would urge PSP and all of Canada's large pensions to push the boundaries on diversity & inclusion and not be afraid to take risks on people who can add important perspectives to your organization.

Again, it's not about labeling people but you have to recognize some people have it much harder than others in life and you need to take that into consideration in your hiring process. 

It can be a disability, a chronic disease, poverty, war, agism or whatever, but if your hiring process is stuck in the past, you will always keep hiring the same people who represent the minimum risk to the organization but in reality these people represent the biggest risk to your organization over the long run (let that settle in).  

I can tell you when I was at PSP eons ago, my boss back then hired a Bulgarian immigrant who was a landscaper and had banking experience in Bulgaria. That turned out to be one of the wisest hires ever and today that individual is thriving at another organization which is lucky to have him. 

My point is simply diverse perspectives matter and they are shaped by different life experiences.

Don't be afraid to hire different people, you should embrace them and be more afraid to hire people who act and think exactly as you do.

Socrates once famously said "know thyself". I know myself, I'm a stubborn old Greek-Canadian who is set in my ways. I'm highly opinionated and have put my foot in mouth more times than I care to remember. 

I'm also very transparent and very open because I'd like to see progress on issues that matter to me, and diversity & inclusion matter to me. 

One of the people I had lunch with today quipped "We are in the money management industry, we are not in the diversity business."

He didn't mean it in a bad way, it's the truth, we are in a business where your worth is associated with your latest P&L or the value-add you bring over some benchmark. 

But pensions also have the luxury of having a long time horizon and in order to make this a better world, they need to take a long hard look at their own organization and really ask some tough questions on everything, including measuring outcomes on diversity & inclusion and the relevancy of their hiring processes and whether they are sorely antiquated and doing more harm than good. 

I'm rambling on, had a bit too much wine at lunch but I don't really regret anything I've written above.

The thing with me is I wear my heart on my sleeve and make no apologies for writing from the heart. 

Those are my thoughts on this first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Before I forget, here are a few of the books that my esteemed lunch partners recommended to me and some that I recommended to them:

What else? Mark Wiseman, the former CEO of CPPIB and current Chair of AIMCo and Andrew Liveris, the former CEO of the DOW Chemical Company, wrote a comment on Linkedin on Purpose Based Business – Revisiting Capitalism for the Long Term. Take the time to read it here

Lastly, Jim Leech, the former CEO of OTPP sent me an article on why he took a retirement detour to help create a new income-for-life mutual fund. Take the time to read it here.

Jim posted a beautiful picture with his wife and grandchildren on Twitter on a day for reflection and learning:

They all look great, I'm glad Jim is taking a retirement detour to help Canadians retire in peace and security.

Alright, that's all from me, let me once again thank my "giant" lunch partners for a great time, I really enjoyed our conversation earlier today.

Below, MacroVoices Erik Townsend and Patrick Ceresna welcome Shard Capital Strategist and Alternative Investments chief Bill Blain to the show. Bill says secular inflation is here to stay, then goes on to explain several less obvious nuances of the finance industry's readiness for the coming change and much more (aired July 29, 2021).

Not sure I agree with Bill but we talked about inflation and deflation at lunch and I will say it again, you better get this call right or risk losing a lot of money over the long run (read The Power Elite, might help you sort out where we are heading).

Also, since it is a day of reflection, I am sharing an older (2012) interview with Charles Taylor, one of the greatest intellectual influences in my life. 

Third, Indigenous community members and allies have gathered in Ottawa to honor victims, survivors, families and communities affected by Canadian residential schools.

Lastly, on the eve of Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Ben Miljure finally received closure on a very personal journey: reconnecting with his long-lost mother, an Indigenous woman who was missing for decades. Take the time to watch this here and below (saw it last night).