Open and close mobile menu


Insights Five minutes with Ruby Littlechild, National Director, Indigenous Relations in Canada

this is a image of Ruby smiling

Five minutes with Ruby Littlechild, National Director, Indigenous Relations in Canada

Can you tell us about your role at AtkinsRéalis ?

I am a Treaty no. 6 grassroots member of the Ermineskin Plains Cree nation in Alberta. My role is that of a bridge builder at AtkinsRéalis , which I joined three years ago. I sit on the ED&I Canada committee. I am also on the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) committee where I collaborate on the development of AtkinsRéalis ’s Reconciliaction Plan, a commitment to establish and maintain mutually respectful and meaningful relationships between Indigenous communities, our clients and our company. 

I live in two worlds: I have a mainstream education and I am part of the Indigenous community. I know the substantial infrastructure issues that these nations face, the lack of trust that they have toward mainstream companies. I also know the engineering industry very well, having worked with engineers and geologists since 2011. I admire the professionals that I have had the chance to collaborate with. There are only a few Indigenous engineers, which is unfortunate given the significant understanding and awareness needed to build our Indigenous communities. That’s why at AtkinsRéalis , amongst projects such as the ground penetrating radar in several of the First Nations, a key part of our work in the communities, focuses on supporting the success of the next generation. For example, we award a $1,500 bursary to students studying to pursue engineering careers via the College of Rockies’ Indigenous Access to Engineering Bursary, as well as other initiatives.

I wish to build trust with the various Indigenous communities. I find that our Indigenous leaders are willing to listen and share their issues with me since I am a grassroots member. As a leader in infrastructure, AtkinsRéalis has an important role to play. 

There are many positive strides being taken to bridge the infrastructure gap, such as Indigenous E3. It’s a partnership which seeks to support Indigenous socio-economic development in Canada by delivering projects inspired by the core pillars of “E3”, which refer to “Earth, Environmental and Engineering”. 

What does community engagement entail and more specifically, Indigenous relations?

There are seven cultural teachings that elders remind their community members to live by: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth. I use a balanced approach when engaging the various communities – remaining humble when talking to them whilst being assertive in order to help them negotiate with the various stakeholders to create social change. Some of the communities are deeply rooted in ceremonies which can help me build trust. 

There is a fear in Alberta that stems from the residential schools that have failed and scarred so many Indigenous people. And that mistrust exists across the country. There are more than 600 Indigenous communities in Canada, and 1,200 in North America. There are systemic funding issues. There is also a gap in knowledge of what engineers and geologists can do. 

The living conditions of several Indigenous communities in Alberta and across the country are deplorable, especially when it comes to water and roads. When my grandchildren visit my parents on their reserve, they are appalled. Indigenous partnerships can be leveraged in Canada to engage the labour force with greater inclusion. Indigenous relations can help build these communities with sustainable and equitable infrastructure, empower community leaders and resolve these ongoing infrastructure issues for good. 

Are there things that you are looking forward to that you would like to share with us?

I am looking forward to rolling out the AtkinsRéalis ’s Reconciliaction Plan. I am also grateful and proud to see the eagerness and support that Erik Ryan, James Cullens (Executive Senior Vice-Presidents of the Executive Committee and my many colleagues and allies across the company have shown. 

To create social change and work towards a true commitment of equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I), you need allies, champions. These leaders see the need, and they want to build relationships between AtkinsRéalis and the Indigenous communities. 

Discover jobs where you can make a difference at AtkinsRéalis such as Civil engineering or Construction. Join our talent community to stay connected and engaged with us within the AtkinsRéalis Group.