Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2023-27

Reconciliation and Indigenous Knowledge

The NWMO is committed to understanding, honouring and aligning with Indigenous Knowledge in our work. This commitment is reflected in many ways – through oversight by our Indigenous Relations team, advice from the NWMO’s Council of Knowledge Holders, Indigenous representation in our organization (including in our executive team and Board of Directors), meaningful policies to guide our work and regular engagement with First Nation and Métis communities. In all areas that we operate, this commitment is an essential part of doing good work and maintaining positive relations.

Over the next five years and into the future, the NWMO will continue to implement our Reconciliation Policy (2019), measure progress and align Indigenous Knowledge with our work. Measured annually and reported publicly, this work affirms our commitment to acting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action #92, which calls upon the corporate sector to build respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples and provide valuable learning opportunities for staff on the history of Indigenous peoples.

In 2022, the NWMO published our first Reconciliation Report (2021), which provides an evaluation of the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy’s impacts since its formalization in 2019. Activities tracked have included mandatory staff Reconciliation training or continuous learning opportunities, informal training opportunities, staff support systems and community-driven work plans.


Reconciliation matters. For Canadians, it ensures that we learn from and address historic and ongoing wrongs, and that we work together to co-create a better future. The NWMO is committed to our Reconciliation journey. As we move forward, we ensure Reconciliation is considered in all our work.

Our Reconciliation Policy was released in 2019 as part of establishing a solid foundation for working with Indigenous peoples. In step with our policy, the NWMO continues to engage meaningfully with First Nation, Métis and municipal communities and organizations as we work together to implement Canada’s plan.

The NWMO recognizes the truth of the historic wrongs and the challenges we have today and seeks opportunities to co-create a better future. Our policy requires that the NWMO build relationships with First Nation and Métis communities on a foundation of respect for languages and customs, culture and institutions.

The NWMO’s Indigenous Relations team works with Reciprocal Consulting – an Indigenous-owned firm specializing in Indigenous evaluation and monitoring – to publish our annual Reconciliation report. It evaluates the NWMO against the Reconciliation baseline to ensure we are meeting the commitments outlined in the Reconciliation Policy (2019). The Reconciliation baseline is used to evaluate our contributions to Reconciliation, identify gaps and determine how we should move forward as an organization. Measuring our progress helps instill Reconciliation as a core value, which is reflected in how we act as an organization.

We continue to apply our Reconciliation assessment tool to key documents. We have completed 18 Reconciliation assessments of the NWMO’s policies, as well as applied the tool to both regional engagement strategies and the draft Integrated Strategy for Radioactive Waste. We have also taken the assessment tool outside the organization, using it with some of our partner universities to apply this lens as they expand research programs related to our work.

Cultural awareness training is one way the NWMO supports our learning. To date, more than 80 per cent of the NWMO’s staff have completed the first two Reconciliation training modules, which include space for learning circles and Indigenous-led dialogue. Part three of our Reconciliation training program was rolled out in fall 2021, with a focus on historic and contemporary understandings of treaties, as our Reconciliation continuous learning stream continues to evolve. In 2022, we introduced a new Métis awareness training module.

As the NWMO implements the Reconciliation Policy (2019), we demonstrate our contribution to this important movement towards change.


  • Enhanced Reconciliation Training Program to include learning specific to treaties and Métis peoples
  • Publicly released the first annual Reconciliation Report
  • Applied the Reconciliation assessment tool to governance as part of our Integrated Management System transformation
  • Expanded Reconciliation Training Program to communities and external partners


  • Continued to enhance Reconciliation Training Program to include unconscious bias training
  • Included Indigenous Knowledge in water protection plans
  • Applied the Reconciliation assessment tool to regional engagement strategies
  • Embedded Reconciliation within corporate culture


  • Enhanced policies and procedures to address Reconciliation
  • Enhanced procurement program to include an Indigenous strategy
  • Assessed corporate Reconciliation baseline and developed a Reconciliation measurement matrix


  • Published Reconciliation Policy
  • Developed and delivered Reconciliation Training Program
  • Developed a corporate Reconciliation baseline assessment tool
  • Enhanced sponsorships and donations program to include a focus on Reconciliation
  • Continued to communicate the NWMO’s Reconciliation program with communities involved in the site selection process
  • Began assessment of NWMO policies and procedures against Reconciliation assessment tool


  • 85 per cent of NWMO staff received cultural awareness training
  • Reconciliation Statement finalized through Indigenous ceremony

Indigenous Knowledge

The NWMO’s commitment to aligning with Indigenous Knowledge and the important teachings from Indigenous Knowledge Holders guide our work. These teachings include the role and significance of spirit and ceremony, understanding natural laws, respecting Mother Earth and creating space for Indigenous voices.

Internal workshop discussions explore the sacred relationship and stewardship role Indigenous Knowledge Holders have with water and the commonalities that exist within western science perspectives. Participants at these workshops include Indigenous Knowledge Holders, Elders, scientists, industry professionals and NWMO employees. Together, we explore how water is a life force that sustains us, flows between and within us, and shapes the land.

“Water is a unifying and transformational being that brings us all together. It is also a great teacher, with a voice and a story to tell.”

Elder Diane Longboat

It is our duty and responsibility to listen to and learn from water so that we always respect, protect and nurture it. That is why protecting water, people and the environment is so important to us. It is at the core of what we do and a commonality we share with Canadians and Indigenous peoples because we all have a personal relationship with water.

Understanding the water, its quality, its memory and where it is flowing is essential for us to be able to make good decisions as we assess the geology and other environmental features in our potential siting communities, conducting environmental and geological studies.

Through collaboration with Indigenous Knowledge Holders, Elders, scientists, industry professionals, conservation authorities, youth and others, we continue to learn about water and can share our knowledge with one another and others around the world.

Several communities in our site selection process asked us to provide more information about how our work will protect water. Since 2017, we have engaged with communities through our “Journey of water” presentation series. We align with Indigenous Knowledge in these presentations about water, a subject of vital importance to all people. Developed collaboratively with the Council of Knowledge Holders, Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation Women’s Circle and Indigenous community groups, this series helps tell the story of water and how it interacts with materials proposed to be used in the multiple-barrier system. The NWMO continues to seek opportunities to present these vital teachings in the future.

In the next five years, our commitment will endure, as we seek to align with Indigenous Knowledge in everything we do, creating space to learn from ceremony and applying pertinent learnings to how decisions are made at the NWMO.