Indigenous Procurement – An exciting new challenge


Author : Edward Claringbold

Over the past three years, I have been the Procurement Lead for the First Nation Procurement Policy at my organisation. In late 2020, we took a bold step into the unknown by releasing the First Nation Procurement Policy, which was collaboratively designed and written with our First Nation Partners. Our aim was to be at the forefront of Indigenous Procurement, which was recognised by being listed on the Indigenomics Institute’s 10 to Watch list for 2021, and I was fortunate to be provided the opportunity to be the Implementation Lead. I have gained valuable insight during this time, and I hope I can pass on some of those lessons learned from my experience to help you on your journey into this new and exciting realm of procurement.

As someone who has always approached procurement with an academic mindset, I have relied on procurement training and online courses to advance my understanding of procurement. I quickly found at the beginning of my journey into Indigenous Procurement that courses and procurement training, although important, would only be one part of my learning in the implementation of this innovative policy.

I found one of the most significant ‘light blub moments’ for me was realizing the difference in mindset between two distinct cultures. As a white male from Europe, I was unaware of my own cultural biases, as I am immersed in that dominant culture in which I live. The assumptions I have about life and work, are not obvious to me as they are generally shared by my colleagues. Working in the pubic sector, I function within a system shaped by this dominant culture. My procurement education had not exposed me to indigenous ways of knowing and doing, as procurement traditionally stems from European cultural structures.

Learning more about the history of the Indigenous people of Canada, particularly the Yukon First Nations, exposed me to different cultures and diverse perspectives. Collaboration between our team and our Yukon First Nation partners revealed a different mindset when it came to procurement. There was less emphasis on procurement certification and procurement courses, and more focus on individuals and the barriers to economic self-reliance. There was a reduced focus on the processes and rules of procurement, and a more significant focus on outcomes and how to reshape the procurement process to focus on relationships and partnerships. The intent was more important than the words on the page.

This shift prompted a change in approach. Instead of solely focusing on developing procurement training for indigenous businesses, our attention turned to connecting those businesses with economic opportunities. The challenge became encouraging partnerships and collaborative learning between indigenous and non-indigenous individuals working toward a common goal. We sought to simplify the processes, the procurement documents, and examine the unnecessary barriers we within our systems.

Let’s take a look at an example that we have been working with: Bid Bonding. Yukon Government has used bid bonding as a risk mitigation tool on many procurements, particularly on construction-related tenders. After engaging with our First Nations Partners, we discovered that Indigenous businesses, the market we were targeting with the policy, historically have struggled to get bid bonding. This usually lead to more sub-contracting rather than being the prime/general contractor on Government construction projects.

This prompted the procurement team to dig deeper and figure out what that barrier was, and why it was difficult for these businesses to get bonding. Was it a systemic problem with new businesses or difficulties connecting with surety companies? Or was the whole concept not aligning with the way these businesses generally operate? We connected with the Surety Association of Canada to spread the knowledge into these communities, and ensure our procurement training reflected more information about bonding and how to secure it.

However, we decided we needed to look at other perspectives and this sparked a review of the procurement and contract risk mitigations tools. Were there other strategies with fewer barriers for our Indigenous business community? Could we explore ideas such as cash securities? These questions even led to an ‘out of the box’ idea – what if there was an indigenous surety company? Could a local indigenous finance institution step into the role of a surety company and provide the bonding requirements to the local business community?

Collaboration, as we discovered, means different things to different people.  It required our procurement services team to step out of our comfort zone, get outside the methods we learned through our procurement training, and meet First Nations where they were to bring our teams closer together. We formed small functional working groups, tackled intent questions, and ensured that different perspectives were captured in the design and change management practices we were developing. It meant bringing the wealth of knowledge from our Indigenous partners into the government purchasing landscape and uncovering opportunities we would not have seen on our own.

Of course, there was still a need to increase understanding of procurement law and the limitations we have as public procurement professionals. We designed the necessary procurement courses and supports, but we had to find ways to connect beyond these standard practices.

I found one of the most effective ways was to meet First Nation governments in their communities, explore the land and realities they live with, and see firsthand how government projects impact the communities. A successful initiative from the policy involves reviewing the 5 Year Capital Plan, and Community Contract Forecast. These documents give us a snapshot of the large capital projects slated for the community in the next 5 years and all of the contracts planned for the coming year. By presenting this information in the community, it led to positive discussions about how to include First Nations in decision-making processes and how the community can plan for large influxes of work and the outside contractors that might come with them. It allows them to synchronize workforce and business development with upcoming opportunities. Additionally, they can share their projects to prevent overwhelming local contractors and the workforce by running large projects at the same time.

This provided us with firsthand experience of the community and First Nation priorities, promoting the path forward towards economic reconciliation. It is a kind of learning that I would never have received from online procurement courses, and only learned by forming relationships with First Nation representatives, and people in those communities. I hope you can take away some of these lessons, and recognize the power of experiential learning in advancing socio-economic reconciliation. For more on what the Government is doing in the indigenous procurement realm, please visit

Public Procurement in Canada

Certified procurement professionals play a pivotal role in the public procurement world. These experts are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the intricacies of procurement processes. Whether you’re looking to enhance your procurement acumen through procurement management courses or seeking valuable insights through procurement webinars, the landscape for public procurement offers many opportunities to explore.

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Public procurement in Canada is not just about acquiring goods and services; it’s about contributing to the well-being of communities and the country as a whole. The individuals in this field understand the significance of their roles and strive to uphold the highest standards of ethics and accountability.

Whether you’re a seasoned procurement professional or just starting your journey, the public procurement landscape offers a wealth of opportunities for growth and development. From procurement management courses to ongoing procurement webinars, resources are available to help you stay informed and up-to-date with the ever-evolving world of procurement.

Written by Edward Claringbold

As the Senior Procurement Advisor for Yukon Government, Edward Claringbold ensures processes and procurement practices maximize the positive impacts that procurement can bring. Edward enjoys living the wildness of the Yukon, where he spends summers outdoors either camping or hiking in the backcountry. He also plays a lot of board games to while away the winter months.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the Subject Matter Experts and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Procurement School.

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