Collecting labour force information and conducting skills assessments are key to ensuring Indigenous communities take full advantage of northern mining jobs.- by Daniel Bland (Policy Options – July 30, 2018)

Daniel Bland is an adult educator who works with Cree Human Resources Development (CHRD) on the design and delivery of training to employment and work readiness programs in James Bay Cree communities.

As mining and resource extraction companies across the North continue to ride out a worldwide slump in commodity prices, there are several things that Matawa and other remote First Nations close to large mineral deposits in Ontario could be doing to maximize the benefits that will eventually come their way once mining operations begin in earnest.

Considerable attention has been paid to the labour market demands of the mining projects in the chromite, nickel and copper mineral belt known as the Ring of Fire.

Much less attention has been given to developing an employability profile of the residents of the nine Matawa First Nations in the area, about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. These residents are expected to supply much of the labour force needed to meet those demands.

Accurate labour force information about remote Indigenous reserves is hard to come by. Although Statistics Canada conducts a monthly labour force survey in provinces and territories across the country, it does not include on-reserve Indigenous populations. Much of the information that is available from other sources is outdated, unreliable or anecdotal.

Certainly there are challenges in collecting labour force data on reserves, particularly in remote areas of the North. Travel is expensive, it can be difficult to recruit and train local people in data collection, respondents are frequently difficult to contact, and so on.

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