Sunday, October 21, 2012


Over two decades providing communications support to the James Bay Crees of Eeyou Istchee has resulted in many great experiences. gordongroup has been witness to their formidable emergence as a powerful nation.
In July of 2012 the James Bay Crees established a new agreement forming the first of its kind Regional Government within partnership with the province of Quebec, Canada. The journey continues, upon reflection I have offered the following about the James Bay Crees and what I’ve discovered about their approach.

Striving for leadership presents a challenge for an individual, organization or a nation. Defining the hallmarks of what makes for great leadership is useful when engaging in branding, or marketing. The James Bay Crees of Eeyou Istchee have been trailblazers in their efforts to preserve their traditions, culture and way of life. 

By their example many lessons can be learned.

Leadership, as a management construct can be defined in many ways depending on the act or methodology and how this impacts on others. Leadership is often characterized based on the degree of followers the leading individual, organization or entity attracts. Leadership is judged based on records being established or the degree to which obstacles are overcome. Leadership may also be defined through invention, someone who discovers a cure, a planet or invents a new technology all these examples define leadership. Many different categories can be ascribed to leadership, including areas such as sport, vocations, military might or activities like knitting or carving. The principle characteristic of leadership is an act performed by an individual that defines a transformational outcome however large or small.

The James Bay Crees have been described as trailblazers. Over the last four decades many examples of Leadership are evident, from the time before signing the first modern day treaty in Canada to the most recent example in Quebec, the Regional Government Agreement. The Cree model of leadership has established for the first time in Canada a relationship between provincial, municipal governing entities in relationship to the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and their societies jurisdiction over vast territories of land.

An example of Aboriginal leadership and a component of Canadian history which provides context to the countries identity relating to indigenous relations includes the time during the late 1960’s when the “White Paper” was introduced by the governments of the day. The policy at the time was intent on assimilation of Canadian Indigenous society within the general population of Canada by extension blending or assimilating the Crees society and other Indigenous groups along with their rich cultural diversities within western civilization, essentially casting away any notion of preservation or acceptance of aboriginal identity. A form of dissolution of culture within a broader mainstream ethos was planned as policy in Canada. Through the proposed assimilation priority the traditional practices, heritage and values that form the mosaic of indigenous society would have been further marginalized or extinguished. The White Paper was opposed and eliminated through massive opposition and overwhelming negative response from Aboriginal Society in Canada and others, not long after this episode in Canadian history the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and Inuit of Nunavik through their leadership defined a new model for Treaty making. Two ancient civilizations within the far reaches of northern Quebec in collaboration with Provincial and Federal Governments forged the First Modern Day Treaty in Canada into existence. This positive milestone within a decade of the archaic thinking attributed to the White Paper. Treaties in Canada remain the normative instrument for striking agreements and by extension, defining the structure of relations between Indigenous people and the national governing administrations. The James Bay Crees since the signing of first modern day treaty have demonstrated four decades of leadership, through their example they’ve introduced a brand of leadership that remains a model for indigenous societies globally.

Corporate Social Responsibility in Action

Canadian Royalties Inc. Nickel Mining in Nunavik

An investment in relations with those who may contribute to the companies’ growth or those who may simply be in the region where the company activities take place is an investment that cannot be overlooked today. Relationships are at the core of successful business practices and the importance placed on reputation, job satisfaction, advancement among the spectrum of many other people related issues is what supports the companies vitality and longevity within the community where operations happen. Those people who stand behind the organization and participate in making decisions have influence over how the company will perform but also of equal importance in the age of instant communications and distribution, the management of how the company will be perceived. Building the companies’ brand through leveraging best practices in CSR is a winning strategy that has considerable upside for companies facing levels of scrutiny unheard of in just the last decade.

Meaningful contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer a policy concept that is essentially on the record. Proactive demonstration of actual steps toward implementation and follow through have become mission critical today in the resource sector where so much is at risk toward ensuring the proper flow of activities toward profitable outcomes.

The risk associated for those organizations proceeding without consideration to informing their stakeholders in a meaningful way about the values and principles that extend from the corporations leadership brings a downside. Planning, and development of CSR strategies combined with proactive implementation is a robust strategic management function that will support more meaningful and positive impact especially during times when unexpected circumstances emerge and hold the company accountable or blindside the company due to lack of planning and community engagement.

This investment goes to the heart of building the organizations brand and by extension goodwill across the organization and externally among the many people in the community who one day may influence the companies growth. Moreover, the company may need the support particularly when facing obstacles or potential barriers. Not making the commitment places the corporation at risk of losing valuable goodwill among stakeholders who extend well beyond the local region and include a global audience today as information is rapidly shared.