Creating the future together – Annual Report 2023
Creating the future together – Annual Report 2023

The NWMO signed a Reconciliation Statement to affirm our commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Aligning with Indigenous perspectives

Throughout 2023, we continued to build on our commitments to Reconciliation and aligning with Indigenous Knowledge. Collaboration and partnership remain at the heart of our work, including continuing to work closely with the Council of Elders and Youth to consider their advice and guidance.

Nurturing our culture of Reconciliation

The NWMO is on a continuous learning pathway towards Reconciliation. This includes daily practices such as land acknowledgments and ongoing training and learning opportunities, as well as recognition and support of Indigenous-led events. The steps we took forward in 2023 built on momentum of the past few years, including the release of our Reconciliation Policy in 2019 and our first-ever annual Reconciliation Report in 2022.

Among our key milestones in 2023 was the development of a new Reconciliation tool kit for employees. It will serve as a continued learning support in the NWMO’s Reconciliation journey by bringing together aspects of our Reconciliation Training Program, while also creating opportunities to reflect and take action.

This complemented ongoing meaningful learning opportunities for the NWMO’s staff to support their personal and professional Reconciliation journeys. Reconciliation training sessions in 2023 covered topic areas such as the complex history between Indigenous peoples and Canada, unpacking identity and how that impacts relationship building, understanding the unique relationship that Indigenous peoples have with land, historic and contemporary treaties, as well as learning about Métis peoples and their history.

In 2023, we also successfully applied a Reconciliation lens to our work using our Reconciliation assessment tool, which was designed to create dialogue about how to better align our work with Indigenous Knowledge and our commitment to Reconciliation, as well as any potential limitations that may prevent us from doing so.

As a result of these initiatives, we are now better equipped to create intentional space in our work so that we can apply Indigenous Knowledge and Reconciliation values. Employees across the organization now better grasp the critical role that water and environmental protection have played within Indigenous cultures for generations.

Aligning with Indigenous Knowledge

Rebekah Wilson, Reconciliation Coordinator at the NWMO, facilitates a workshop on “Understanding Reconciliation and Indigenous Knowledge” at the 2023 Pathway to Increase Standards and Competency of eDNA surveys (PISCeS) conference as part of the NWMO eDNA program in collaboration with the University of Guelph.

We remain committed to respecting Indigenous voices and honouring Indigenous worldviews — and recognize that doing so improves both the quality of our technical work and ability to engage with communities.

Our Indigenous Knowledge Policy (2020) outlines how aspects of Indigenous Knowledge systems can be respectfully aligned with the implementation of Canada’s plan. As the policy states, “Indigenous Knowledge is an evolving, complex and sophisticated system of knowledge drawing on millennia of wisdom and experience. It is an evolving knowledge system that ranges in diversity from governance, ecology, biology, ecosystems, harvesting, science and other aspects. It constantly grows and expands with the experience of new generations.”

Throughout our work this past year, the NWMO engaged Indigenous communities and local Indigenous Knowledge Holders in the areas surrounding interested communities to find ways to apply Indigenous Knowledge to the site selection process and protect it in its application.

As one of the first organizations in North America to implement an Indigenous Knowledge Policy, we are well positioned to discuss how we align with Indigenous Knowledge in all aspects of our work. A testament to this occurred in November, when members of Parliament called upon the NWMO to share best practices that will inform how the federal government can better integrate Indigenous Knowledge into its own policy-making process. Our President and CEO Laurie Swami appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research to highlight our leadership and expertise in this area, sharing key lessons learned. As she emphasized, maintaining a community’s ownership over its own knowledge is essential, as is ensuring that the necessary mechanisms are in place to protect it — as the NWMO has done with our Indigenous Knowledge Policy.

Milestones like the Water Statement and Sustainability Statement reflect the NWMO’s commitment to working with Indigenous peoples and ensuring Indigenous voice is part of our thinking and design of programs. Continuing to ensure collaboration and co-creation on work like this is central to Reconciliation.

Bob Watts

Vice-President of Indigenous Relations and Strategic Programs at the NWMO

NWMO Reconciliation Journey


  • Continued leveraging the Reconciliation assessment tool to review NWMO policies
  • Rolled out Reconciliation tool kit to complement existing learning sessions
  • Held the sixth annual Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science workshop
  • Released Water Statement


  • 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