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5 entries from September 2020

The Meaning of Orange Shirt Day: Connecting with Helena Mazawasicuna and Melissa Tacan

Today, September 30, is Orange Shirt Day – a day where we take the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about the effects of residential schools and the continued impact that they have on Indigenous Peoples and communities. A day when all Canadians can come together in the spirit of reconciliation and listen to the stories of survivors and their families.

Team at the Sioux Valley Petro-Canada

Members of the Sioux Valley Petro-Canada take part in Orange Shirt Day | Photo: Elton Taylor

On a personal note, I’ve been contributing to the PumpTalk blog for about five years now and I’ve had the opportunity to interview a number of amazing people, but the interview we are sharing with you today is truly one of the most special to me. I had the privilege of connecting with two of our Associates at the Sioux Valley Petro-Canada, located on the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation near Griswold, Manitoba: Helena Mazawasicuna and Melissa Tacan. Helena is the General Manager of the site and Melissa is a member of her team.

Helena and Melissa

Helena and Melissa | Photo: Helena Mazawasicuna

PumpTalk: Thank you, Helena and Melissa, for sitting down with me today. Could you share a bit of background about the SVPC site?

Although it’s been here since 2016, the Sioux Valley Petro-Canada officially opened on January 31, 2017 and employs 18 people. We have lots of job opportunities. We want to help the younger generation work while they are going to school or during the summer. Give them a boost to get them going. And not just with a job. But teach them how to open a bank account and how to save money.

The Petro-Can is a big part of the community – this year especially. When the (Sioux Valley Dakota Nation) reserve was shut down for COVID, we were the main source for food and fuel. We stayed open all the way through and provided the reserve with their hampers during COVID.

Sioux Valley Petro-Canada

Sioux Valley Petro-Canada | Photo: Helena Mazawasicuna

PumpTalk: Today is Orange Shirt Day. So that PumpTalk readers can start to understand the importance of this day, could you share the impact of residential schools on your community?

We are here representing and can only speak to Sioux Valley residential school survivors. We’ve not been through residential schools, but our families have. We can talk about their experiences.

My (Helena) husband has shared stories with me about his father – he was in the residential school. It is difficult to hear his stories. There was so much abuse. Physical. Sexual. Children were just taken from their families. He spent so many years there.

My (Melissa) dad was taken as a small child. He was forced to learn English. Forced to give up his language. Beaten if he spoke his native language. The fear from that experience continues today.

PumpTalk: How do the experiences like those of your family members impact the Nation today?

Fast forward… now you’re a survivor and come home... to what? Your parents are afraid... if they are still alive. You are scared to talk, scared of your own ceremonies. Scared of your emotions. Sometimes survivors can’t function. As a child, they didn’t get what they needed. Didn’t get love. Didn’t get hugs. Not taught life skills when they were young.

So now, as adults, they can’t work. Or they don’t know how to be a parent. And sometimes their children are taken away.

Every time you go down our (main) road, you still see the house that the Indian Enforcement Officer lived in. We see it every day. It is a constant reminder. People struggle with it every day. Some people are able to hang on. Our elders are strong. But we wonder about the generations now. What is going to happen to our children? Our grandchildren?

PumpTalk: What is the Nation doing to try to heal this trauma?

Our elders are trying to help us recover our language and our culture. Being able to speak in our original language is so important. My (Helena) son is four years old and is learning the Dakota language.

Residential school survivors were made to feel bad about participating in their culture. But some families are able to make the choice to teach their children. My (Melissa) dad made the choice to teach his children about our culture. And I’m teaching my children.

On the reserve, we’ve developed a Family Services program – the Dakota Tiwahe Services – that works with youth. Teaching traditional things: medicine taking, making traditional dresses, moccasins. Things that people normally wouldn’t know. Plus they help keep Sioux Valley children in Sioux Valley. We don’t want them fostered out. Children need to stay with their culture. We also have a Health Centre on the reserve that offers counseling.

PumpTalk: How can Canadians help heal the trauma?

We need to do more truth telling. Don’t sugar coat the past. Don’t just read a book… unless it’s written by an Indigenous author. Go to a reserve. Participate in events. Meet an elder and ask to hear their story. Get a better understanding of true Canadian history.

One example of something that every Canadian can do is to take the free course at the University of Alberta on Indigenous Canada. Canadian actor Dan Levy is also taking this course and he hosts a chat following each class.

PumpTalk: What will you be doing on Orange Shirt Day?

Our whole team will wear orange shirts that week. We liked being asked about their meaning. And we’re thankful that Suncor and Petro-Canada are willing to help get the word out.

But Orange Shirt Day is also a reminder about the bad things that were done to kids.

These are not easy truths. Recognize that racism is still happening. Don’t tell us to “move on.” Don’t tell us that “this isn’t your land anymore” and “we have to co-exist.” If you are not Indigenous, you are an immigrant. Don’t push us away.

PumpTalk: What would you like to see Canadians do on Orange Shirt Day?

Canadians need to reach out and ask and get a better understanding of Canadian history. To truly understand cause and effect. When you see the shirts... it’s a reminder that, originally, we were whole.

I see an orange shirt and I see a sea of little faces... of children who were stripped from their families. So, when you see an Indigenous person today who is lost and wandering, remember that it is not their fault. At age five, they were ripped from their families. They didn’t get the skills they needed when they were young.

Canadians need to ask: Where does it stop? When does the chain break?

The broken person that white people are calling a “loser,” a “no good Indian” … ask them what happened that day they were taken. How would you feel, and your kids feel if the shoe was on the other foot?

Every Child Matters. Even if they are now an adult. We were once and still are warriors. But our battle now is a battle for true acceptance.

PumpTalk: Helena and Melissa… thank you. I cannot express how moved and changed I am by hearing your stories. I appreciate you trusting me and am honoured to share them with our readers.

Wopida Tanka ... a big thank you to you and your readers for listening with open ears to our stories. Doshta ake ‘ ... See you soon.


If you would like to take another step towards gaining Indigenous awareness and reconciliation, please check out these resources.


~Kate T.

AJAC’s Annual EcoRun Transforms into EcoMonth for 2020 PLUS our New EV App

Like many organizations across the country, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) has had to adapt to this year’s unusual circumstances, particularly in regards to their annual EcoRun. Typically, during the EcoRun, a group of 20-30 automotive journalists, over a few days, drive across part of Canada, test-driving eco-friendly vehicles and collecting real-world fuel economy stats to share. Check out our post about last year’s EcoRun.

2020 EcoMonth Banner

This year, AJAC has designated September as EcoMonth and plans to devote the entire month to educating consumers on the merits of electrified and fuel-efficient driving, all while maintaining a physical distance. AJAC journalists across the country are test-driving vehicles locally and connecting, virtually, with automaker/sponsor partners. You can check out their ongoing reporting by following the hashtag #AJACEcoMonth

And now for a little EV news of our own…

Petro-Canada EV App

We just launched the Petro-Canada EV mobile app for iOS  and Android. With the EV app you can:

  • Start your charge
  • Pay from your phone
  • Monitor your sessions
  • Search for your next stop and more

Download it today from your app store: iOS App Store | Android App Store

What do you think about AJAC’s EcoMonth? Do events and reporting like theirs inform your decisions around choosing electric? And do apps like ours help? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

~ Rose R.

Back to School Calls for Extra Care when Driving

I remember when my biggest worry in heading back to school was whether I had bought the right Trapper Keeper notebook or if I’d get to sit next to Jimmy Alexander in History class (Jimmy… he was dreamy). This year, back to school looks a little different for everyone and both kids and their parents have a lot of new things to worry about. One thing that hasn’t changed: the need for safe driving in and around school zones. In fact, taking a little extra care this year is a good idea.

School Girl with Mask

Kids returning to class will have even more distractions than usual, like seeing their friends for the first time in months, getting used to wearing a mask, or having a different schedule for attending class. All these distractions mean that they may be less aware of their surroundings. So as drivers, we need to be even more aware. Here are a few things drivers can do:

  • Slow down when you're in a school zone
  • Obey signals from stopped school buses and crossing guards
  • Never pass a school bus that has stopped to unload children, and
  • Watch for children darting out between parked cars

Some kids may also be riding their bikes to school for the first time. Watch out for young cyclists and give them the right of way. If you are turning left and a cyclist is approaching from the opposite direction, wait for them to ride through the intersection before turning.

And remember, road conditions can rapidly change this time of year. Falling leaves and increased precipitation can create visual hazards as well as slick spots on the road. Plus, the days are getting shorter and there isn't as much light in the mornings and afternoons.

All of this points to taking a slower, more cautious approach to your commute. Help keep kids safe as they return to school.

~Rose R.

Taking Pride at Work: Connecting with Chris Forward

This past weekend, the Calgary Pride festival wrapped up – the last major Pride event in Canada for the summer. While the LGBTQ2S+ community is top of mind, we wanted to connect with one of our Associates and talk about his contribution to the community. Chris Forward is the General Manager of Harvey's Oil Ltd., a Petro-Canada distributor that sells and distributes petroleum products throughout Newfoundland.

Chris is also the co-chair of Pride at Work Canada, an organization that empowers Canadian employers to build workplaces that celebrate all employees regardless of gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation. We spoke with Chris about his participation with Pride at Work Canada.

Chris Forward, General Manager of Harvey's Oil Ltd

PumpTalk: Hi, Chris! Thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a bit about how you got involved with Pride at Work Canada?

Pride at Work Canada was founded in 2008. Its primary focus was on networking opportunities within member partners, located mainly in the Bay Street corridor of the GTA.

As Pride at Work Canada continued to grow its national reach and programming, one of its key initiatives, the Ambassador program, started in 2014. Ambassador groups are set up in underserved markets like St. John’s… markets that have unique challenges facing LGBTQ2S+ folks. Being LGBTQ2S+ on an offshore oilrig is a very different situation than at a corporate headquarters.

I joined Pride at Work Canada in 2016 and then was named co-chair in 2019. We wanted to have a co-chair position, located outside the GTA, that would focus on growing programming, including the Ambassador groups and “ProPride” events – events hosted by Pride at Work Canada (both in-person and virtual) that feature local guest presenters.

PumpTalk: Hmm... I’ve never really thought about the LGBTQ2S+ experience in workplaces like an oilrig.

It can be a safety issue. Especially for folks who are drivers, like for our heating oil trucks. One of the leading causes of vehicle accidents is absentmindedness. If you’re constantly worried about your personal life and concerned about disclosing too much and how it will be received, it can impact safety on the job. Or even just being able to enjoy company events… it affects you if you feel you can’t bring or are uncomfortable bringing your same sex partner to the company Christmas party.

People that want to champion workplace inclusion and promote safe workspaces for LGBTQ2S+ employees - workplaces where employees can be their true authentic selves - attend the Ambassador program. Employers aren’t going to get the best from employees if they always have to keep their guard up. This is one of the reasons it’s important for Pride at Work Canada to get into the skilled trades. As we say around here, “the boat’s on the shore” if you’re gay at work in downtown Toronto. Not so for skilled trades like the offshore. There’s work to be done to make it a safe space.

PumpTalk: So how does Pride at Work Canada support member organizations?

Depends on where a member partner is in their evolution. Some members have whole departments dedicated to inclusion and diversity. Others are just starting to write gender-neutral job descriptions or work instructions. Welders, for example – their work instructions are all “he”, but there are female welders. Pride at Work Canada can support a partner at any stage. They provide consulting services, help with setting up resource centres, support for transitioning employees.

Pride at Work Canada also puts on free webinars for the public, or for HR folks who might be looking for support. They are very active on LinkedIn.

Harvey's Home Heating Truck at Pride

PumpTalk: What has been your experience at Harvey’s Oil? Has your work with Pride at Work Canada made an impact?

I’ve been out and open at Harvey’s Oil, including bringing my partner to company events, no problem. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case for other LGBTQ2S+ folks, particularly in the oil and gas industry – an industry that has been, in the past, largely comprised of white, straight cisgender men. But the industry has improved a lot in recent years. At Harvey’s, we are making a deliberate effort to promote that we are a safe space for all and are fully committed to a diverse and inclusive workspace. Last year, we asked one of our distributors if we could wrap one of their trucks for the Pride parade in St. John’s. They agreed in a heartbeat. They even commented that it’s great the work we’re doing to give folks a safe space to be themselves.

That’s awesome! Thanks so much, Chris, for chatting with us about Pride at Work Canada. For more about Suncor’s efforts in creating an inclusive and diverse workplace, please see our careers section and our Report on Sustainability.

Celebrating National Trucking Week

I think we can all safely say that it's been a bit of a crazy year. We've learned a lot about ourselves, the importance of community and valuing the everyday heroes that live and work amongst us. In anticipation of National Trucking Week (September 6-12), I'd like to give a special shout out to the women and men across Canada who kept us stocked in medical supplies, fresh food, toilet paper, fuel and pandemic-binge-purchases from our fav online retailers. National Trucking Week is a celebration of the important contributions made by the 400,000+ Canadians who work in the industry and keep the economy moving. And it also is an opportunity to remind ourselves as drivers to safely share the road with trucks.

Celebrating National Trucking Week

Thank you to these dedicated folks who kept up their long-haul routes in the face of the unknown and continue to work so that Canadians can get what they and their families need!

~Rose R.