Thank you, Chair.
Since the very beginning, the NWMO has sought to walk with indigenous people on this journey. Our leadership has long recognized the need to listen to indigenous elders. An elders advisory council was founded almost immediately after the organization was formed. As we evolved, so has this important body evolved. Since Canada's plan will affect generations to come, we've added young people to this group, which is now called the council of elders and youth. Their advice and principles of honouring the land and serving as stewards inform activities across our organization.
Eighty-five percent of our staff have received cultural awareness training. This is a requirement for both our staff and contractors before they begin any fieldwork with our communities.
NWMO has also stated its commitment to integrating indigenous knowledge into our work. One small example are elders and other knowledge keepers who walk the land with our subject matter specialists in western science, and together they share their knowledge and learn from each other. We recently held a two-day workshop that brought together indigenous knowledge keepers and western scientists. During the workshop, participants shared information and perspectives on how indigenous knowledge and western science can be interwoven into research applications pertaining to our safety system.
Last year, we made a formal commitment to reconciliation which was formalized through traditional ceremony. Right now, we're in the midst of finalizing a reconciliation policy that will deepen our commitment to reconciliation. This policy sets out how the NWMO will contribute to reconciliation in all of its work. Some initiatives will include training, employment and procurement for indigenous peoples. This is one small way that we are ensuring that our actions back up the words in our reconciliation statement.
The NWMO works with indigenous communities as well as regional and national indigenous-led organizations. In this work, we recognize the fact that resources are required to engage in our process. We've committed that no community should be out of pocket for learning about and engaging with Canada's plan. We're actively working with communities to determine how we can each build capacity to participate in the project if it is located in their area. We are making investments in training and education to equip community members, including youth, to benefit from the project. At the same time, these investments support building transferable skills that could be applied to other projects or workplaces as well.
I should note that in conversation with the chair prior to the meeting, we were talking about language. We've translated the bulk of our work into nine indigenous languages. Since we've narrowed the focus of our activities, we have narrowed the amount of translation being done, but we've made a big commitment to ensuring that our information is translated so that everybody in the community has access to that knowledge.
Some of our support directly facilitates participation in our process, but some is less tangible. For example, we are committed to increasing access to indigenous knowledge, western science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM education, in potential host areas. Many of these initiatives are funded through our early investment in skills and education program. This will build capacity for generations to come in those communities and help fill the jobs that a repository could provide.
Direct activities include covering the cost of meetings, travel, financial reporting and other expenses associated with engagement and learning. We also support part-time and full-time jobs in communities that we work with to coordinate and manage their participation. Last year, we hosted 45 engagement activities with indigenous youth. Currently, the NWMO funds 18 positions within indigenous communities, comprised of 15 community liaison officer positions, one youth position, one technical officer and one administrative support person.
To support discussions about the potential for partnership and further create a strong foundation for future decision-making, the NWMO has implemented a program of near-term investments. These investments are intended to support community capacity-building to participate in discussions about potential partnerships, and if selected as a single preferred location, ultimately hosting the project in the future.
Funding is in the form of investments provided to municipalities and first nation and Métis communities in the vicinity of the area where assessment activities are planned and that are helping to lead these activities. Since 2008, we have invested approximately $29 million in indigenous communities and organizations. Of that, close to $6 million was invested in Métis communities and organizations, $14 million to first nation communities and $9 million to first nation national, provincial and regional organizations.
In conclusion, above all, we know there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we approach all of our capacity-building from a place of transparency, respect and partnership. Canada's plan is called adaptive for a reason; so too is our approach to community engagement and capacity-building. The NWMO actively reviews and refines our programs as we continue to learn and work with communities and as discussions about potential partnerships advance.
I look forward to hearing from members of today's panel and later to answering any questions the committee members may have about our experience.
Thank you very much, Chair.