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Open doors: CPA Manitoba building bridges for Indigenous learners

Pictured left to right: Geeta Tucker, Joshua Gandier, Danielle Dunbar, Kristy Klyne, Hugh Grant.

CPA Manitoba, the provincial regulator for the province’s accounting profession, started its reconciliation journey three years ago with a commitment to see where they could make a difference in Indigenous engagement with the profession.

It started with an examination of where CPA Manitoba and its members stood when it came to Indigenous participation and engagement. “We discovered through our research that just one per cent of our 7,200 members self-declare as Indigenous,” says Geeta Tucker, FCPA, FCMA, CPA Manitoba’s president and CEO. “As well, CPA Canada funded a study, Hearing Indigenous Voices, to determine what barriers exist for Indigenous peoples to join the accounting profession, and what we can do to create a welcoming and open  path that offers equitable access to education and future employment.”

“As an Indigenous scholar and business educator, working with Indigenous people, I understand the number, nature and complexity of the challenges that our community faces, that are almost incomprehensible to those outside of our communities,” said Dr. Robert Andrews, CPA, CMA, executive director, AFOA Alberta. “This initiative is designed to address those challenges and provide a pathway for success for our Indigenous peoples that respects our Indigenous culture, traditions and experiences. This initiative is informed by research, supported by CPA Canada, and the lived experience of our community members.”

Doing the work
CPA Manitoba examined how they could contribute to reconciliation calls to action ,and started with Indigenous culture and history education for its staff and board, and established guiding principles for the work. After that, it was time to focus on how the profession  in Manitoba could improve its engagement and relationships with Indigenous peoples and  encourage more Indigenous students to pursue an accounting designation.

The work culminated in a pilot education program led by the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Alberta (AFOA Alberta), the Chartered Professional Accountants Western School of Business (CPAWSB), and CPA Canada. In spring 2023, a course was  launched for Indigenous learners that integrated Indigenous culture and context. “Introductory Financial Accounting was our first course for Indigenous participants and included the first-ever Indigenous accounting textbook in Canada,” says Tucker. “Indigenous culture and values were included in the material, including casework that would be relevant, like community band offices and bannock baking companies.” The first pilot is complete, with more coming in early 2024.

Helping one another
CPA Manitoba is also working with Indigenous peoples already in accounting to become mentors for new learners. “Community and cultural connections are vital to developing Indigenous accountants. Being able to learn from those who have had successful careers within the accounting field provides strong motivation, ” says Tucker. “Plus, we encourage non-Indigenous professionals to mentor, too. The more mentors we have, the more engagement we can create. It’s a cycle that benefits everyone.”

All hands on deck
The Manitoba business community can also do its part when it comes to Indigenous engagement in accounting. “Making connections early is vital. When we can engage students in high school about accounting, we can help them get the skills they need for post-secondary education,” says Tucker. “Mentoring students as they prepare for university is a great way to help.” She also says that work opportunities while in post-secondary education can build important skills and provide needed experience. “Co-op terms in welcoming, positive work environments do so much for students and employers. When you can help students ‘learn by doing’ it makes a huge difference. Your organization can find much-needed skilled team members, and students can apply what they learn and build their careers.”

A look ahead
The reconciliation process for CPA Manitoba is far from over. “We’re engaging our members with materials, podcasts, courses and events that can expand their knowledge of Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples and how we can all do our part in reconciliation,” says Tucker. “We’ve just begun our work in education with our pilot courses and more is coming from us and our partners. It’s been an incredible experience as we learn from each other about how we can close gaps and make our profession a place for everyone.”

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