How Indigenous communities can make the most of the lull in the minerals market – by Daniel Bland (CIM Magazine – September 20, 2018)

Daniel Bland is coordinator of the Cree Employability Skills Development Partnership, a training to employment initiative of Cree Human Resources Development.

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

While there has been considerable attention paid to the labour market demands of the Ring of Fire’s mining projects, there has been much less attention paid to developing an employability profile of the residents of the remote reserves most people agree will supply much of the labour force needed to meet those demands.

To be sure, accurate labour force information about remote aboriginal 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 Canada’s on-reserve aboriginal population.

Much of the information that is available from other sources is outdated, unreliable or anecdotal.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.

Real as they are, however, such considerations should not discourage First Nations from conducting their own labour force surveys and collecting their own data, particularly if they hope to take full advantage of the employment and business opportunities that will come their way once the mining sector rebounds and mining operations across the north re-commence.

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