Manager of FICS Group

submitted by Pam Chamberlain, 2010

When Mike Walsh came across an employment ad for an assistant claims analyst with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, little did he know he had found his dream job.

“As soon as I got the job, I realized it was the job I never knew I always wanted,” he says. “There’s no program of study that leads to becoming a land claims negotiator. It’s not a position you often see advertised.”

For six years, Mike travelled around the Northwest Territories working on land claims negotiations with Aboriginal groups and the territorial government. “The goal in these comprehensive land claims negotiations,” he explains, “is for all parties to come to a point they can agree on—one that benefits all parties.”

Mike learned that the key to success is looking beyond people’s positional demands to find their underlying interests and values. For example, he says, an Aboriginal community might take a particular position on an issue, but the real concern is protecting their traditional way of life and culture. He explains it is often possible to satisfy all the parties’ underlying interests without necessarily meeting each group’s starting position. He says that a negotiation is successful when all sides are satisfied

After earning several promotions—moving up to claims analyst, then assistant negotiator, then chief negotiator—Mike was invited to move to Ottawa in 2007 to take over a negotiations team. Now he is the acting manager of the Financial Issues and Claims Support (FICS) group, overseeing eastern and northern Canada negotiations in three areas: geomatics, operations, and finance.

The goal of Mike’s work is to find common ground among Aboriginal communities, territorial or provincial governments, and the federal government in order to achieve acceptable, full, and final settlements. He guides the process of establishing the obligations and benefits for all parties involved. “Doing it right is important,” he says, “It creates certainty for all Canadians, including our Aboriginal and territorial/provincial partners.”

Given his educational background in history and political studies, Mike couldn't have found a better career. “History tells you what happened,” he explains. “Political studies tells you why it happened.”

Mike credits Augustana with giving him the skills and tools to succeed in his role: “The campus produces free-thinking analytical people who can engage in a variety of subject matters. They can analyze problems, think for themselves, and come to sensible solutions.”

“Augustana has been the bedrock of every aspect of my life since I graduated,” he continues. “Every professional and personal goal I’ve attained has in some way been influenced by my time there.”

Mike feels fortunate that all of his scholastic and professional interests are incorporated into his career. “I’m working with the political and cultural fabric of Canada,” he says. “The work we do is changing the map of the country. I’m part of creating living history. It’s a dream come true.”