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The Edwards School of Business at the U of S held a panel discussion on the topic of “Reconciliation and the Business World” on Sept. 21. (Photo: Dave Stobbe)

Edwards alumna walks the road to reconciliation

For Gabrielle Scrimshaw, reconciliation isn’t a destination. It’s a generational process.

As a business leader who plans to start a firm to invest in tribal businesses and Indigenous entrepreneurs, Scrimshaw aims to make lasting changes throughout Canada, starting with her family in her home community to throughout the business world.

“Reconciliation is for everyone, but it will only work if everyone is involved,” said Scrimshaw during a speech in her recent return to her alma mater at the University of Saskatchewan. “Truth and reconciliation means consultation and access to jobs and employee training. It’s having the courage to look beyond the resume.”

Scrimshaw’s appearance on campus was part of the Edwards School of Business All-Years Reunion and the college’s centennial celebrations on September 20-22. In addition to delivering a keynote, Scrimshaw took part in a panel discussion on reconciliation in the workplace, alongside business leaders and fellow U of S graduates Kelly Lendsay and CeCe Baptiste, in addition to Craig Murray. The event served as a vigorous discussion on Indigenization and reconciliation in the workplace, and also recognized Edwards’ 100-year milestone, with a number of graduates and business professionals returning to campus to take part.

A proud alum who graduated in 2010, Scrimshaw said, as an Indigenous person whose family was greatly impacted by the legacy of the Canadian residential school system, she counts herself fortunate to be the first of her family to attend university.

“The day I got my acceptance letter, I remember crying,” recalled Scrimshaw, adding that she was 17 when she left home to study at the U of S. Growing up in a single-parent family in Hatchet Lake First Nation, Sask., Scrimshaw said she never knew what it was like to have a mother. Attending the U of S gave her an opportunity to explore her familial roots and culture, and allowed her to learn more about herself as an Indigenous Dene woman.

“I was very lucky to go to Edwards because the college had recognized that investing in Indigenous students was an integral part of success before most other business schools across Canada,” said Scrimshaw. “Because of that, when I started here there was an Aboriginal Business Student Centre and there was a safe space for myself and for other Indigenous students who were maybe going through some of the same things that I was going through. Because of that centre, I was able to get my first jobs, find my first mentors and, importantly, have a safe space to learn more about myself as an Indigenous person.

“Being removed from my community, I realized how important it was to who I am. It gave me the ability to work in finance and business. That journey all began here at Edwards.”

Since graduating from the U of S, Scrimshaw has attended the University of Toronto and co-founded the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada. Now she holds an MBA from Stanford University, is completing her Master in Public Administration at Harvard and delivers engaging speeches across North America on reconciliation in the workplace—a topic that is a source of passion for her both personally and professionally.

“I view reconciliation as an investment that we need to make because we have a sense of the dividends it will pay,” said Scrimshaw. “On one hand, there is the moral imperative. It aligns with our values as Canadians. But the other side is the economic imperative, in that we are simply leaving money on the table by not investing in Indigenous Peoples. If you look at the skills and education gaps, if we were to close that, it would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the Canadian economy in the next 25 years. There are many studies out there that make informed estimates on this. And we are missing out on that if we do nothing at all.”

But Scrimshaw said it’s more than just a discussion that needs to happen in the boardrooms in the workplace, it also needs to happen around the supper tables across Canada.

“Reconciliation is living in that uncomfortable space and asking questions,” said Scrimshaw. “It’s courage to ask how we got to where we are today and how we will change the next 100 years.” 

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