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Women in Nuclear Canada held its 15th annual conference in Saskatoon this week. Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Jessica Perritt of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization spoke Thursday at the Women in Mining Canada conference.

Canadian businesses and the communities in which they operate can benefit from expanding Indigenous engagement beyond simply meeting diversity targets, according to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s Indigenous knowledge co-ordinator.

That means finding ways to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and voices into the work, both from within an organization as well as from outside, said Jessica Perritt, whose non-profit is tasked with managing and storing Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

“This is the new way of doing business. This is the beginning of how we see things moving forward (with) this era of reconciliation, not knowing where we’re going unless we recognize where we came from,” Perritt said Thursday afternoon.

“It’s great to have a number saying ‘X’ number of people are trained … I think that’s great; we need that within our world. But what Indigenous people are going to connect with is that qualitative aspect,” added Perritt, who is Indigenous.

She was in Saskatoon this week for the 15th annual Women in Nuclear Canada conference, a three-day event aimed at promoting the role of women in the country’s nuclear industry, which has significant operations in Saskatchewan.

On Thursday, she took part in a panel on Indigenous engagement alongside representatives of the community of Pinehouse, Cameco Corp., and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the country’s nuclear industry regulator.

The 45-minute discussion mostly focused on positives, including how the NWMO, CNSC and Cameco are learning to listen rather than talk, and how collaborative decision-making can benefit industry and the surrounding communities.

Speaking with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix after the panel, Perritt said there are also “legacy issues” that need to be addressed by industry.

“I know we can move forward, and I think that’s great, but I think we still have to look backward,” she said.

The goal is for both communities and corporations to view the world through different lenses, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and use those perspectives to make — and ideally benefit from — better decisions.

“As humans, we make better decisions if we view things from different lenses. So I think it’s the same for this,” she said.

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