BMO employees Massimo Principe (left) and Kit Macareag (right) take a picture with PPE supplies to be sent out to Indigenous communities in Canada. photo courtesy of BMO Financial Group

Working with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the Bank of Montreal (BMO) has delivered masks and sanitizing goods to Inuit communities, building on their existing relationships to get supplies where they are needed most.

Nearly 150,000 facemasks alongside 500 gallons of sanitizer and 750,000 wipes were
distributed to Indigenous communities across Canada.

The majority of these have been sent to Inuit communities from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, with more than 113,900 masks going to Inuit.

“We wanted to make sure we had people from all parts of the Indigenous community, Inuit, Metis and First Nations people. The first person I called was Natan Obed (president of ITK), he helped us out too, that’s the kind of relationship we like to have just so it’s not always about business,” said Steven Fay, Head of BMO’s Indigenous Banking Unit.

Given the challenging logistics involved, and a number of other factors much of the personal protective equipment (PPE) sent out went to Inuit communities.

“Inuit are especially vulnerable to severe impacts from Covid-19 as a result of long-standing inequalities affecting, among other things, the ability of many Inuit to access clean water for hand washing, and adequate housing for isolating if Covid-19 is suspected or confirmed,” said Obed.

“We all have a role in addressing these gaps, and I am grateful to the team at BMO for this contribution of personal protective equipment for Inuit regions at this critical time.”

The Indigenous Banking Unit at BMO goes back to 1992 and over the decades there’s been growing relationships with a number of Indigenous and Inuit communities.

“These communities, particularly the ones we had conversations with and made sure got PPE are especially vulnerable,” Bonner said.

“It’s not just being sent equally across Canada, we’ve gone specifically based on advice and the guidance of our friends like Natan, where it’s needed the most, quite frankly.”

With banking among Indigenous people among the fast-growing facets of BMO’s business in Canada, there are a lot of conversations going on in the company with its customers and with individual employees seeking to help out.

“We’ve even had employees who were storing these things in personal garages,” Bonner added.

This project is directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the two wanted to stress that this has been a relationship that has been around for quite a while now.

“The work we have done in the Indigenous Banking Unit,” said Fay, “it’s not short-lived, it’s not flash-in-the-pan, it’s something the bank has done that’s part of our culture now.”

“It’s gotten to a place where we’re doing good business, but we’re also doing good things.”

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