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Regina’s Indigenous procurement policy takes shape as step toward economic reconciliation

Regina is one step closer to an indigenous procurement policy.

Once implemented, city officials said it will be the city’s first policy to directly respond to calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“If you acknowledge the damages and mistakes of the past, then this is one of the damages and mistakes,” Mayor Sandra Masters said.

“Indigenous communities do not necessarily have the level of intergenerational enterprise that non-Indigenous ones do [communities].”

The City of Regina spent $205 million on procurement in 2022. Just $300,000 — or 0.15 percent — went to Indigenous businesses.

The policy reinforces this obligation, stating that at least 20 percent of Regina’s procurement contracts are held by domestic suppliers.

A report submitted to the executive committee expects last year’s spending percentage to “grow exponentially” with the implementation of the policy.

However, there is no timeline for when the city would need to reach the 20 percent target. The staff admitted to the executive committee that some of the finer details in the agreement needed to be ironed out.

Thomas Benjoe, CEO of File Hills Qu’Appelle Developments, says the strategy presents an exciting opportunity for Indigenous companies to break away from chasing a single big contract.

Local businesses will “be able to see contracts and revenue opportunities on an annual basis. So things aren’t that up and down,” he said.

Thomas Benjoe, President and CEO of FHQ Developments, speaks to the media on February 1, 2023.
The City of Regina has developed an Indigenous Procurement Policy with the goal that at least 20 percent of Regina’s procurement contracts be held by Indigenous vendors. Thomas Benjoe, President and CEO of FHQ Developments, helped develop the policy. (Will Draper/CBC)

Benjoe helped develop the policy as part of a 23-member Indigenous Procurement Advisory Committee formed to advise the city.

The strategy means young Indigenous people interested in becoming entrepreneurs will see success and be encouraged to chart their own path forward, Benjoe said.

“It’s a long time coming and I think we can be very proud of our community and our city for taking such a big leadership step in the right direction,” he said.

“Sensible Economic Reconciliation”

The policy received unanimous support in the Executive Committee on Wednesday but has yet to vote at a Regina City Council meeting.

The city of Regina will not be the first to have an indigenous sourcing policy. Saskatoon already has a policy, while Brampton, Ontario, Toronto and Vancouver have sourcing targets to ensure suppliers are diverse.

City officials say the 20 percent benchmark was reached taking into account growing Indigenous populations in Regina and Saskatchewan.

The 2021 census shows that 10.3 percent of Regina’s population is Indigenous, while Saskatchewan’s overall sits at 17 percent.

The benchmark is intended to be an achievable requirement that represents the population and demonstrates the City of Regina’s “meaningful economic reconciliation efforts,” according to the report presented to the Executive Committee.

According to Masters, the goal will help fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call #57 — ensuring a duty of reconciliation for all government officials. It also responds to Call to Action No. 92 – a commitment to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, obtaining the informed consent of indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects, and ensuring that indigenous peoples have equal access to labor and , education and training opportunities.

“Economic justice is in some ways imperative for the future,” Masters said.

Masters said her role as the first woman to be elected Mayor of Regina had an impact on young women in the community and explained that seeing tangible results makes a difference.

She believes the same is true for Indigenous youth in Regina and that policies will create the same growth for entrepreneurs.

“It’s really about redefining the opportunity and hope that anyone can have,” Masters said.

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