From Feb. 11-13, Suncor hosted 12 youth from Aboriginal communities near our operations at the Suncor Indspired Youth Experience, part of the annual Indspire Awards held this year in Vancouver.
For over a decade, Suncor has brought Aboriginal students to the awards as part of a multi-day experience that includes opportunities to meet the award winners on the day of the event and connect with Suncor employees and leaders. It is one way Suncor works to provide Aboriginal youth with leadership and learning opportunities that are grounded in culture and reconciliation. And it’s part of a larger focus to build greater mutual trust and respect with the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.
“The Indspire Awards and the Indspired Youth Experience are an important part of our efforts to engage with and support Aboriginal youth in seeing the possibilities for their future,” says Rebecca Sullivan, Suncor’s general manager of stakeholder and Aboriginal relations. “There is a 29 per cent gap in high school completion rates between Aboriginal Canadians and the general population. So if we can create an opportunity for Aboriginal youth, through programs like the Indspired Youth Experience, to get excited about what lies ahead, we can help improve their prospects, and ultimately support stronger communities.”
The youth participants are selected by their communities for a variety of reasons and all are considered young leaders. William George-Thomas, who participated in the 2015 event in Calgary and co-emceed this year’s youth luncheon, remembers his experience fondly. “I learned there are more options than I thought for my future. The experience has truly inspired me to continue with my schooling to the best of my ability.”
This year, the young delegation was joined by two circle leads from Suncor’s Aboriginal Employee Network, Velma Jelly and Derrick Trottier.
The youth also had an opportunity to witness Chief Dr. Robert Joseph receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Indspire Awards gala. Chief Joseph was given the award for his efforts as founder of Reconciliation Canada.
“That was an incredible moment,” says Rebecca. “The impact Chief Joseph has made on the Aboriginal community, and our whole country, is enormous. It was really inspiring to see our partner and friend recognized for his good work. And then to see him with the youth who will one day make their own contribution – it was really special.”
A shared energy future
A few days before the Indspire Awards, and just down the street, Eric Axford, Suncor’s executive vice president of Business Services, represented Suncor at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Forum on Energy. The event attracted more than 500 First Nations leaders and economic development officers from across Canada. Addressing delegates, Eric spoke about the importance of working together, and our commitment to seeing greater involvement of Aboriginal Peoples in energy development.