As we approach the fall equinox (September 22nd, when fall begins and the hours of sunlight equal the hours of darkness), many of Canada’s Indigenous communities will pause to give thanks, for the fall harvest, for the longer hours of sunlight that the summer season has provided, and to mark the passing of the sun’s annual cycle into its next phase.
In many Indigenous communities, the fall is a time that represents maturity and wisdom, and the equinox is also an opportunity to celebrate our connection with the Earth. The North American celebration of Thanksgiving is deeply rooted in these Indigenous traditions, and is just one small way that Indigenous history and culture enrich our larger society.
It is, in many ways, a happy coincidence that ESC finds itself undertaking a major transformation in the way that we collaborate with and support Indigenous communities.
Given that one element of our business is the processing health claims, bidding on and winning the contract to process claims for Indigenous people under Health Canada’s Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program was a natural fit. Health Canada had a need and we had the solution. In the 10+ years that we have been managing the contract, however, the relationship between ESC and Canada’s Indigenous communities has become much greater than a simple transaction. I’m proud to say that the more we collaborate with Indigenous communities, the more we see that it aligns with our core values, and makes us stronger as a business.
Recently, we undertook to seek certification in the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program, which sets standards of excellence in Indigenous relations, and then assesses organizations’ adherence to those standards. Companies certified by the PAR program are good business partners, great places to work and demonstrate a commitment to prosperity in Indigenous communities. ESC is participating at the “Committed” level, and will be assessed on a number of different requirements over a three-year period, with the goal of achieving the “Certified” level of participation by that time.
At Express Scripts Canada, our motto is Champions for Better, and we live our values through something we call The Express Way. Our six Express Way values define our culture – who we are and how we work. They are:
Although we lived by these values long before participating in the PAR program, as we grew our relationships with Indigenous groups, we realized that we could do even more towards supporting these communities, and living our values, by making a strong commitment to the PAR program.
Read: Jordan’s Principle
There are a number of ways we are being Champions for Better in how we collaborate with Indigenous communities:
Recruitment and employment
We’ve established an employee-driven Indigenous Networking Group that will inform our recruitment strategy within Indigenous communities.
Career development, training and succession planning
We will strengthen career development, training and succession planning, with an eye toward identifying and supporting Indigenous leaders within our ranks.
We are building a greater awareness of Indigenous history and teachings (including those of specific Nations) across our organization.
Build business development capabilities
We are engaging Indigenous vendors where appropriate to fulfill major ESC business objectives.
Support community relationships
We are supporting Indigenous education initiatives through annual donations to charities focused on Indigenous youth education and seeking opportunities to support community groups.
We have assembled a seven-person team drawing from different areas of expertise both within ESC and the Indigenous business community, to guide us through the implementation of these commitments. Furthermore, our success in achieving the desired results will be put to the test over the next three years and scrutinized by an independent panel of Indigenous business people, as per the requirements of the PAR program.
We look forward to the PAR program holding us accountable because we believe that undertaking a holistic Indigenous relations program is good business.
Happy fall equinox! I look forward to telling you more about our progress in the near future.
Michael G. Biskey
President, Express Scripts Canada