Vancouver, BC — The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) announced the recipients of the 2023 SFI President’s Award for Leadership at the 2023 SFI Annual Conference in collaboration with PEFC Week. Scott Robertson, Lennard Joe, and Paul Robitaille were recognized for their foundational, governance, and programmatic contributions in advancing SFI’s Indigenous Relations.
“SFI is committed to building forest-focused collaborations rooted in recognition and respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge. A key element of SFI’s commitment is investing in meaningful relationship building,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI. “Scott, Lenny, and Paul are inspiring leaders who have purposefully advised SFI on how to seek Indigenous representation and nurture lasting collaborations that lead to real and equitable benefits for Indigenous Peoples. All three facilitate open and honest conversations and are valued advisors to SFI and me. I’m especially proud to celebrate them for their contributions to SFI with this award.”
Scott Robertson, Senior Associate, Nahwegahbow Corbiere LLP, Aboriginal Rights Lawyer
Scott first inspired SFI’s road map to integrating Indigenous perspective over a decade ago when he moderated a panel during the 2011 SFI Annual Conference regarding the links between the SFI certification and traditional Aboriginal values. He encouraged the organization to build on this momentum and achieve Indigenous representation on the SFI Board, on staff, on committees, and inspired targeted workshops to seek Indigenous perspectives and ensure these voices were being included in every facet of our work.
To this day, he is a trusted advisor to SFI regarding Aboriginal and Treaty rights, title issues, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Scott is a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River.
“Engaging with the leadership and staff of SFI on Indigenous rights and issues has been an honour. The commitment and respect to integrating and adopting Indigenous perspectives into the SFI certification system is unprecedented. SFI has developed both the internal capacity and knowledge to meaningfully interact with Indigenous groups on developing forest management practices in keeping with their own traditions and protocols. Nia:wen to Kathy and SFI for your kind words and acknowledgment in being but a small part on your journey,” said Robertson.
Lennard Joe, Chief Executive Officer, BC First Nations Forestry Council and SFI Board Member
In 2012, Lennard Joe joined SFI’s Resources Committee, which directly oversees the work of the SFI Standards Review Task Groups. In 2018, he was elected to the SFI Board of Directors, where he brings his perspective to the decision-making table.
Lenny was instrumental in providing opportunities for Indigenous representation throughout the Standards revision process, and successfully enshrining Respect for Indigenous Rights and Traditional Knowledge as a standalone Objective in SFI’s Forest Management Standard. He has consistently shared his perspective, and allowed opportunities for other Indigenous voices to be heard regarding how SFI can better align with and service the interests and priorities of Indigenous communities. He is actively involved in developing new businesses and resource sector opportunities within his territory as well as throughout Canada and the world. Lennard Joe is from the Nlaka’pamux Nation and a member of the Shackan Indian Band.
“I am humbled to be recognized for such an honour. We do this work out of the responsibility we have for our land, our resources, and our people. Connecting our past to the present for our future generations who are not yet here. I am grateful for SFI to acknowledge and create an environment where this can happen. It is good that I share this day with two other extraordinary people,” said Joe.
Paul Robitaille, Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations, Sustainable Forestry Initiative
Paul Robitaille, a citizen of the Métis Nation, joined SFI’s staff in January 2019 as Manager, Indigenous and Youth Relations, and has been a driving force behind the growth and diversification of SFI’s Indigenous Relations policies, programs, and partnerships across the organization’s four pillars. In his current role as Senior Advisor of Indigenous Relations, Paul is an esteemed member of SFI’s Senior Leadership Team, providing a broad and informed perspective and advancing SFI’s Indigenous Relations.
He has built numerous programs that advance Indigenous youth opportunities in green career pathways and support Indigenous communities and their businesses in obtaining third-party forest certification. Robitaille has also been instrumental in supporting greater Indigenous rights recognition and relationship building throughout the SFI Network through promoting meaningful and accessible Indigenous Relations training. This has included leading the creation of the Indigenous Rights and Relationship Building courses with Sault College, which support SFI-certified organizations in meeting a new requirement in the SFI Forest Management Standard to provide appropriate Indigenous Relations training to all staff and contractors.
“I am deeply honoured to receive the SFI President’s Award for Leadership,” said Robitaille. “It is made even more special by sharing the recognition with my colleagues and mentors, who have contributed so much to building a foundation of Indigenous Relations success at SFI.”
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) advances sustainability through forest-focused collaborations. We are an independent, non-profit charitable organization that leverages four interconnected pillars of work: standards, conservation, community, and education. SFI works with the forest sector, conservation groups, academics, researchers, brand owners, resource professionals, landowners, educators, local communities, Indigenous Peoples, and governments.
SFI is committed to building and promoting forest-focused collaborations rooted in recognition and respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge. We firmly believe that inclusive, collaborative approaches to policy, program and relationship development lead to real progress on the ground and a positive difference in people’s lives. Read more about SFI’s Indigenous Relations Commitment.
SFI has partnered with and/or invested in over 180 Indigenous communities. More than 50 Indigenous communities, businesses, and partnerships across Canada and the U.S. have certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard or the SFI Indigenous Peoples and Families Module, across over 4 million hectares/10 million acres. And since 2018, PLT Canada, an initiative of SFI, has helped place Indigenous youth in over 1000 Green Jobs, many of whom found jobs in their own communities.
VP, Communications and Government Relations
Sustainable Forestry Initiative
About the Indigenous Rights and Relationship Building courses with Sault College
Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada), an initiative of SFI, developed 9 Indigenous Rights and Relationship Building online courses with Sault College. These courses cover many topics relevant to students, forest sector employees, educators, and more.
Learn more about the courses here: https://forests.org/indigenous-online-courses/.