Jason Thompson is tired of the stigma that surrounds the Indigenous worker.
The owner of Superior Strategies and Aanigitoon Development Services, and co-owner of Superior Supply and Services in Thunder Bay is on a mission to change the conversation.
More importantly, he wants to advocate for the participation of Indigenous people in the workforce.
He believes that through active inclusion and positive reinforcement, we can begin to make meaningful change.
After working in the forestry sector for years, Thompson and his wife witnessed people in the North falling on hard times.
Their family and friends were struggling to find and keep employment, and many were migrating out of the North to pursue other opportunities.
To prepare themselves for the changes they saw coming in the future, they decided to go back to school. While Thompson's wife was studying, he decided to start a business to help support them.
Superior Strategies is a management consulting and training services company, which was founded on Thompson's passion for occupational health and safety.
The Indigenous-owned company strives to serve a variety of sectors operating in Northern Ontario. Their clients include corporations, government, not-for-profit organizations, and Aboriginal organizations.
The company started out by providing simple training services, including first aid and working at heights training, and WHMIS certification.
In working with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients, the company has grown into a full-service training and consulting firm, offering on-site safety support, cultural sensitivity training, mental health first aid, and economic development services.
Two years ago, a supply and service arm was launched.
Superior Supply started by providing health and safety supplies and personal protective equipment, which tied in well with Thompson's other business. It's now grown to include welding and industrial shop supply needs, and janitorial/sanitation products.
“It's been challenging, as a new supply business, to find suppliers and stay competitive in the market,” said Thompson.
“But you also get to work with great people, like the folks at Apollo Management, who help break down some of those barriers and help support your vision.”
This past summer, Thompson and his team worked with the Ministry of Transportation to pick up core samples from remote locations to deliver them to a Thunder Bay testing facility.
To accomplish the job, he reached out to his community and hired locals.
“A huge part of my vision is to employ some of the local communities,” he said. “If we can reach out to help break down some of those barriers, and bring others in to help, then let's do it.”
This year, Thompson is gearing up to launch a line of clothing called Warrior Work Wear.
“The whole idea (behind the clothing line) is to inspire Indigenous people to get engaged in the workforce,” he said.
“I am very tired of this old line that Indigenous people don't want to go to work.”
Thompson is firm about the idea that it costs zero dollars to treat people with respect. People, he said, are often a product of their circumstances.
“You can see it through some of the effects of the residential schools on our communities and how that has had a lasting impact on our people. You cannot forget that. It's there, and it's part of the challenges and pains we have.
"But I think through positive reinforcement and having people to inspire and change the dialogue, we can have a very positive impact going forward.”
With a staff of 14 full and part-time employees, Superior Strategies is outgrowing its Dawson Road office space in Thunder Bay as its client base expands to include parts of Western Canada and the U.S.
One of Thompson's main goals with the clothing line is to establish part of their manufacturing operation on First Nations land.
“Putting that back into the community would be huge for us.
“I would love to see Indigenous businesses in every sector. I believe, honestly, that the only way we're going to really influence change is by being in those positions to make decisions.”