Indigenous women ask questions
It’s been just over a year since the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) received funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to identify and ask questions about the barriers indigenous women face, and secondly, to get direct and honest answers as to what are the realistic opportunities for them in the mining industry.
Basically, as the headline says, they want to know where they stand insofar as their positions within the mining industry are concerned.
The questions NWAC put on the table at a recent forum in Ottawa entitled, Bridging the Gap: Aboriginal Women and Resource Development, dealt with two perspectives; the first looked into resource development corporations and sought to understand what these corporations knew about aboriginal women, and the second was from aboriginal women and how they viewed the mining industry with regards to economic development and employment opportunities.
The forum was attended by an impressive gathering of female indigenous leaders and representatives from the resource development sector. A full list of the participants is featured in the adjacent box.
The intent of the engagement/discussion session was to initiate a constructive dialogue amongst the participants with the overall goal of:
- increasing the labour market participation of indigenous women in the resource development sector;
- ensuring indigenous women’s voices are heard in the development of these projects;
- sharing of information on the industry; and
- discussing the various opportunities and barriers facing indigenous women who wish to work in the industry.
It was noted during the forum that one of the various initiatives that NWAC has been involved in is the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Strategy (ASETS), a project funded by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), that focuses primarily on indigenous women and provides funds for education and training, job support, and targeted wage subsidies (TWS) to assist employers in hiring indigenous women.
An overview of indigenous women was given with the intent of pointing out that the term Indigenous covers First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Coupled with the terminology, there is also a significant lack of understanding about where indigenous women are located in Canada.
Although 52 per cent of the indigenous population in Canada is women, much of the attention focuses upon indigenous women who live on First Nations reserves. There is, however, a significant portion of the population who reside in urban centres.
In fact, 70 per cent of the indigenous population in Canada now live in urban centres.
With the interaction between the indigenous communities and resource development industries primarily focused on reserves, there may be a significant portion of the indigenous female population that is not being considered for employment and/or economic opportunities.
For example, when impact benefit agreements (IBAs) are completed, they tend to be locally focused and may not consider indigenous women that do not reside in the community or indigenous individuals who are not members of the particular community.
From the indigenous women’s perspective at the forum, it was noted that indigenous women’s opinions on the resource development sector were varied and divergent. Like most things in life, there were some women who are in favour of the mining industry, and there are some who are against it.
Many who are against the sector perceived it to be counter to the traditional role of indigenous women as water-keepers and caretakers of Mother Earth, but on the other hand, research found that there was also a significant percentage of indigenous women who were ambivalent towards the industry.
Due to length and detail of the forum (from which this article is based) the information has been drastically reduced to fit the space.
For complete details and a copy of the full Bridging the Gap: Aboriginal Women and Resource Development Report, please contact Beverly Blanchard, Strategic Policy, Partnership and Planning, NWAC, Ottawa. [email protected].
A DISTINGUISHED PANEL ATTENDS
Siobhan Dooley Hatch Engineering
Grant Goddard New Gold Inc. (Rainy River Project)
Karina Kesserwan Kesserwan (Law – Strategy – Solutions)
Stacey Jack New Gold Inc. (Rainy River Project)
Christopher Lefebvre Aramark Canada Mireille Pilotte New Millennium Iron
Rachel Pineault Detour Gold Corporation
Kate Rafter Employment and Social Development Canada
Louise Reid-Schloen Hydro Ottawa
Jamie Saulnier Running Deer Resources Nancy Veal Resolute Forest Products
Marilyn Capreol Shawanaga First Nation
Pamela Eyles BC Native Women’s Association Susan Forth Shawanaga First Nation
Elize Hartley Ontario Native Women’s Association
Marian Horne Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council
Noreen McAteer Alberta Aboriginal Women’s Society
Verna Polson Quebec Native Women Inc.
Tori-Lynn Wanotch Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women’s Circle Corp.
Beverly Blanchard Native Women’s Association of Canada
Sydney Ducharme Native Women’s Association of Canada
Claudette Dumont-Smith Native Women’s Association of Canada
Dan Peters Native Women’s Association of Canada
Merv McLeod McLeod-Wood Associates Inc.
Nancy Wood McLeod-Wood Associates Inc.