What being Indigenous means to me: France Brunelle’s story

Published on : 8/4/21
  • At Sodexo Canada, we value diversity, equity and inclusion. On June 21, when people across the country celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day, we talked to France Brunelle, Area General Manager for Corporate Services. She spoke about her career at Sodexo Canada, and about what being Indigenous means to her.


    France’s Sodexo Career

    France Brunelle has been part of the Sodexo family for almost 24 years! Her career started in the Education segment and then she transitioned to the Healthcare industry as a Director. When she transitioned to our Corporate Services team, she started as a Director and has moved her way up to Area General Manager, which is her current role. Even though her work is based out of our office in Montreal, she has had the opportunity to travel around Quebec and Ontario to visit some of her accounts.

    France BrunelleFrance likes that her job is flexible, that she has the ability to plan her work and to be supported by her leader. As a people-person, she values helping, connecting with and meeting other colleagues, clients and employees. France admits that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for her to have to sit behind her computer all day.


    Celebrating Indigenous culture

    France is a part of the Innu Essipit First Nation, located on the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in the Côte-Nord region, in Quebec. Essipit means “river of shells” in the Innu language. She is an active supporter of Indigenous communities, and recently became a chapter lead for Sodexo’s CIP (Council for Indigenous People). One of their objectives is to hire Indigenous people from the Montreal area as part of a diversity, equity and inclusion plan, as well as buying products from Indigenous suppliers when possible.

    France acknowledges that some clients are mindful of the participation of Indigenous businesses in the economy, as identified in a recent national survey, and she wants Sodexo Canada to encourage this support.

    We have clients that want us to make businesses with Indigenous communities. At the end of the day, the success of Indigenous businesses will benefit not only Indigenous communities but also all Canadians.

    As a part of CIP, France encourages efforts to celebrate Indigenous culture within Sodexo. One of these efforts is to create menus based on Indigenous cuisine. As an example, one of Sodexo's kitchens in Montreal had their orders doubled for an Indigenous Peoples Day lunch special, which featured smoked salmon and bannock.

    While France is proud of her Indigenous heritage, unfortunately, the same is not true for everybody. It is important to her that Sodexo respects the fact that she is Indigenous. She shared the word ‘Kuei’, which means hi or hello, a good way to start a conversation.


    Giving visibility to Indigenous People

    For Indigenous Peoples Day, we asked France what it means to her to be Indigenous. Her answer was straightforward - Pride. France is proud of her heritage and she is not quiet about it. By setting this example, she feels people are more comfortable about voicing that they are Indigenous as well. She recognizes that this might not be true for everybody, as she has met people, including one of her family members, who have tried to blend in to society because they are ashamed of being identified as Indigenous. It is important to shift this type of behaviour, to keep Indigenous culture alive.

    Indigenous communities are healing from years of trauma and for that reason she focuses on the positive stories about Indigenous people. Being part of a minority group, she finds it valuable to share the best version of the group she represents while trying to stop the stigma and start a conversation.

    Although she lives in the city, France and her family actively participate in Essipit's community events. She cooks Indigenous meals at her house to celebrate and keep their Indigenous culture alive. She also tries to learn more about the history of her community by listening to stories from her mother, which is one of the most important ways of sustaining Indigenous culture and identity, France explained.

    I’m proud of being an Indigenous woman and I want to show that even though I am a part of a minority group, I have a successful career. Hopefully this will encourage others to pursue their dreams. I believe this is the small part I can play in supporting the community.

    Knowing that Sodexo offers a welcoming space to Indigenous people, France is comfortable encouraging others to share their stories so that we can all grow together.