Chapter 2. Canadian federal employment policies and programmes

Employment and Social Development is the main department responsible for employment and skills policies in Canada. They work with other federal departments and provincial/territorial governments to implement a number of policies and programmes across Canada. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada plays a significant role in the management of employment and economic development policies targeted to Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This chapter provides an overview of key employment and skills programmes at the federal level, including those which are targeted to Indigenous Peoples.


Employment and skills programmes at the federal level

At the federal level, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) holds primary responsibility for developing a skilled, adaptable and inclusive workforce, including leading the management of employment and labour market policy as well as management of training and skills development policy. Federal involvement in labour market policies and in training and skills development in particular stems from the federal responsibilities for the national economy and for jobs and growth. Federal involvement is also based on equity; training and skills development is an important lever to support the economic prospects of groups who face barriers to full participation in the labour market. Disadvantaged groups are also more vulnerable to economic shocks and to structural changes in the economy. In a context of population and workforce ageing the ongoing prosperity of countries depends on the optimal use of its human resources.

Canada’s system is designed to provide financial support to unemployed Canadians while they look for work or upgrade their skills. The Employment Insurance (EI) system consists of two complementary components: temporary financial assistance (referred to as EI Part I); and employment support and training that unemployed Canadians need to find a job (referred to as EI Part II). EI Part I is delivered by the Government of Canada, while EI Part II is delivered by the provinces and territories.

The federal government is responsible for collecting premiums and providing stewardship over the EI Account. Both the Canadian Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) and ESDC play a leadership role in overseeing the EI programme. For almost 75 years, this tripartite organisation has included representation from business, labour and the Government of Canada.

Part II of the EI Act provides for employment benefits for insured participants. EI Part II assists unemployed people return to employment with support measures (such as counselling and job search assistance) and benefits (such as skills development and work experience). Under bilateral Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs), over CAD 2 billion in EI funds are transferred to provinces and territories each year to design and deliver training programmes and employment assistance that meet local labour market needs. There is a legislative requirement that programmes delivered under the LMDAs must be “similar” to the EBSMs established by the Government of Canada. Employment Benefits, for EI-eligible clients (i.e., active and former claimants) include:

  • Skills Development – which provides financial assistance to individuals to make their own arrangements to obtain skills for employment;

  • Targeted Wage Subsidies – which encourages employers to hire persons they would not normally hire;

  • Self-Employment – which helps individuals start their own businesses;

  • Job Creation Partnerships – which provides individuals with opportunities to gain work experience leading to ongoing employment; and

  • Targeted Earning Supplements – which encourages unemployed persons to accept employment by offering them temporary financial incentives.

An additional CAD 500 million from general tax revenues is transferred to provinces and territories to provide skills development and employment training with a focus on the unemployed with a low level of skills and education who are mainly not EI-eligible. Established in 2014, following the expiry of the Labour Market Agreements, the Canada Job Fund Agreements (CJFAs) include flexibilities to design and deliver programmes to meet local labour market needs, in alignment with core principles. CJFAs support a broad range of employment supports and services with priority given to the unemployed and low-skilled. This includes the Canada Job Grant that puts training decisions in the hands of employers and includes support for a range of employer-sponsored training initiatives.

The Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPDs) are the federal government’s single largest source of support to help persons with disabilities to enter and stay in the labour market. Under the LMAPDs CAD 222 million are allocated each year to the provinces and territories to determine their own priorities and approaches to best address the labour market needs of persons with disabilities.

In addition to Skills Development training under Part II of the EI Act, ESDC funds training in occupational and general skills from general revenues (the Consolidated Revenue Funds) for those who do not qualify for employment benefits. This includes training that is often incidental to programmes for groups with particular barriers to the labour market such as youth, older workers, immigrants and persons with disabilities. Funds from the CRF are also used for services for indigenous persons.

As well as transfers and collaborative arrangements, the Government of Canada invests and acts directly in federal labour market objectives that aim to preserve Canada’s economic union. As such federal programming helps to address national labour market challenges, develops and maintains a national pool of skilled labour, supports mobility of labour across Canada, promotes opportunities for individuals with a focus on under-represented groups and minimises unemployment

The federal government manages a number of labour market policies and programmes that are preventative in nature. For example, to help avert job loss and detachment from the labour market, ESDC oversees the Work-Sharing (WS) programme that has a focus on unemployment prevention, by helping to avert job loss when there is a reduction in business activity. The programme provides income support in the form of employment insurance WS benefits to eligible workers who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers (i.e., returns to normal level of business activity). The goal is for all participating employees to return to normal working hours by the end of the term of the WS agreement. Employer sponsored skills enhancement, whether on-the-job training or off-site courses, may take place during the period of a WS agreement, however attendance would be optional.

Mobility of workers can help prevent unemployment. There are a number of federal policies that support mobility; removing barriers for workers to move to where there is demand for workers. Canada Revenue Agency allows eligible moving expenses for individuals who move and establish a new home to work or run a business at a new location, or to take courses as a student in full-time attendance enrolled in a postsecondary programme at a university, college or other educational institution. Industry Canada is responsible for the Agreement on Internal Trade, which makes it easier for people who work in regulated professions to get certified in other jurisdictions and work in their field. ESDC also supports labour mobility through labour market information products to help students, workers and employers anticipate the skills that will be needed in the future, and through Job Bank which offers national job matching for employers and job seekers.

The provision of Labour Market Information (LMI) is a major component of the skills agenda for the 21st Century adopted by the Labour Ministers. Better information on the labour market (such as data on wages, job openings, training opportunities and certification), is a critical element in helping Canadians acquire the skills needed to plan their careers in the new economy. The federal government has implemented a number of initiatives to ensure that Canadians have access to labour market information to know what jobs are available. Budget 2015 included commitments to launch a new one-stop shop national labour market information portal. Job Bank is an electronic listing of jobs provided by employers from everywhere across Canada. There are a number of functionalities within Job Bank including job match, career planning tools, vacancy and wage information.

The federal government has made contributions to postsecondary education for many years. This support is now included under the Canada Social Transfer (CST). Under the CST, the federal government provides funding to provincial and territorial governments for postsecondary education, health care and other social programmes.

Student loans in Canada help postsecondary students pay for their education. The federal government funds the Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) which provides financial assistance in the form of loans and grants to postsecondary students who demonstrate financial need. Provinces and territories may fund their own programmes or initiatives that run in parallel with the CSLP. The federal government also provides a range of tax-related credits and saving incentives to help students and their families pay for their postsecondary education.


Canadian workers may opt to enrol in apprenticeship programmes, which combine workplace learning with classroom instruction. According to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) the training combines alternating periods of on-the-job (80 to 85%) and technical training (15 to 20%). After completing both the classroom and the on-the-job training, apprentices can receive journeyperson certification or a certificate of qualification. Depending on the trade, it takes about two to five years as an apprentice to become a certified journeyperson. Each province and territory has its own training and certification policies and its own list of designated apprenticeship programmes.

The federal government works closely with provinces and territories to manage and deliver the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program which promotes a set of common standards that allow the recognition of certifications across provincial jurisdictions. While professional certificates or licenses are recognised by all provincial jurisdictions under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), the Red Seal provides the assurance that workers are qualified according to common standards of knowledge and competency as defined by industry. Through the Red Seal Program, examinations are developed and maintained through a rigorous industry-driven process for 56 Red Seal trades. The federal government also provides a range of programmes and services to help apprentices in their certification process. Apprentices can apply for the Canada Apprentice Loan and other financial supports like grants and tax credits.

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) is responsible for the management of the Red Seal Program. The CCDA works with industry to facilitate the development of a skilled labour force, and labour mobility across Canada. Total registered apprenticeship numbers in Canada more than doubled between 1991-2009, rising from 192 945 to reach 409 038 registrations (Skof, 2011).

Labour market initiatives targeted to specific groups


The Youth Employment Strategy (YES) is the Government of Canada’s suite of employment programmes for youth. Delivered through Employment and Social Development Canada, over CAD 330 million is invested annually to help young people between the ages of 15-30 get the information and gain the skills, job experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition to the workplace. Specifically, the YES offers three initiatives: Skills Link, Career Focus, and the Summer Work Experience programme.

Skills Link helps young people who face more barriers to employment than others develop basic employability skills and gain valuable job experience to assist them in making a successful transition into the labour market or to return to school. They could be youth who have not completed high school, single parents, indigenous youth, young persons with disabilities, youth living in rural or remote areas or recent immigrants.

Career Focus helps postsecondary graduates transition to the labour market through paid internships, and helps to provide youth with the information and experience they need to make informed career decisions, find a job and/or pursue advanced studies. This includes full-time internships for postsecondary graduates in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the skilled trades and supporting internships in small and medium-sized enterprises

Summer Work Experience provides wage subsidies to employers to create summer employment for secondary and postsecondary students. The Summer Work Experience programme includes Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ). CSJ provides funding for not-for-profit organisations, public-sector employers, and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to create summer job opportunities for students.

The YES is currently being improved to provide youth with more practical and real-life work experience, and to help youth make more informed career choices that prepare them for the transition into the labour force. Starting in 2015-16, for two years, targeted programming will support the relocation of youth and immigrants to areas where job opportunities exist.

The Government of Canada also provides significant support to Skills Canada to actively promote careers in skilled trades and technologies to Canadian youth by working with local organisations, educators and governments.

Indigenous Peoples

Under Canada’s constitution the federal government has primary responsibility for Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is the lead federal government department responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Government of Canada’s obligations and commitments to First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and the fulfilment of the federal government’s constitutional responsibilities in the North. Numerous statutes, negotiated agreements and relevant legal decisions largely determine the Department’s responsibilities. Most of its programmes, representing a majority of its spending – are delivered through partnerships with indigenous communities and federal-provincial or federal-territorial agreements. INAC also serves urban indigenous people, as well as Métis and Inuit, of which many reside in rural areas.

The Department is also responsible for implementing its approximately 2 100 treaty obligations under comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements, as well as coordinating the implementation of over 4 000 obligations for all of Canada flowing from these agreements (Government of Canada, 1999, 1993 and 1985).

INAC also provides support for services on reserves such as education, housing, community infrastructure and social support to Status Indians and Band members on reserves; administers the land management component of the Indian Act; and executes other regulatory duties under the Indian Act. A First Nations community may operate entirely or partially under the Indian Act, or it may be self-governing. As mentioned, self‐government agreements are one means of building sound governance and institutional capacity that allow indigenous communities to contribute to, and participate in, the decisions that affect their lives and carry out effective relationships with other governments. Self-government agreements give indigenous groups greater control and law-making authority over a comprehensive range of jurisdictions, including governance, social and economic development, education, health and lands.

INAC negotiates comprehensive and specific claims on behalf of the Government of Canada. Specific claims deal with the past grievances of First Nations. These grievances relate to Canada’s obligations under historic treaties or the way it managed First Nation funds or assets. Comprehensive land claims, on the other hand, generally arise in areas of Canada where indigenous land rights have not been dealt with by treaty or through other legal means. In these areas, these agreements (also called “modern treaties”) are negotiated between the indigenous group, Canada, and the province or territory, and provide certainty about the ownership, use and management of land and resources for all parties. This creates an environment that is more conducive to resource development and other economic development opportunities, and studies point to better socio-economic outcomes for indigenous groups who have completed comprehensive land claims.

As well, INAC negotiates self-government agreements on behalf of the Government of Canada. The negotiation of self-government creates a forum for Canada to have a meaningful dialogue with indigenous communities. Negotiation of self-government agreements foster a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship based on trust, respect, and a true spirit of co-operation and partnership. These self-government agreements can either be negotiated as part of a comprehensive land claim, or they can be negotiated as stand-alone or sectoral self-government agreements. Self-government agreements provide clarity regarding the legal regime and related questions of authority and accountability for decision making, which fosters greater community pride and increases investor confidence, supporting economic partnerships and improving living conditions. As a result, greater prosperity for indigenous people and a more promising future for all Canadians may be achieved. In fact, government and academic studies suggest self-governing indigenous communities have better education, employment and labour force participation rates, and higher income levels than Indigenous groups without self-government arrangements.

First Nations may choose to opt out of 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and develop their own land codes in order to govern reserve lands and resources – and take advantage of economic development opportunities. This option is made possible through the First Nations Land Management Regime, which transfers administration of land to a participating First Nation. This includes the authority to enact laws with respect to land, the environment, and most resources. There are currently 96 active First Nations in First Nations Land Management Regime. There are 54 operating under their land code and 41 in the developmental phase (developing their land codes).

Canada has signed 22 self-government agreements recognizing a wide range of indigenous jurisdictions that involve 36 indigenous communities across Canada. Of those, 18 are part of a comprehensive land claim agreement (modern treaty). Eleven of those comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements are with First Nations in the Yukon. Two self-governing First Nations’ traditional territories (the Kwalin Dün and the Ta’an Kwäch’än) are where Whitehorse was established, and they have lands within the municipality of Whitehorse. Dawson City was built on the traditional lands of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the First Nation still have lands within the municipality. In Saskatchewan, Canada is also in the process of negotiating a self-government agreement with Whitecap Dakota First Nation

Education Programmes

The Government of Canada funds elementary and secondary education for First Nations students ordinarily resident on reserve, and provides postsecondary education financial support for eligible First Nation and Inuit students. INAC works with First Nations and the provinces/territories to support quality education for First Nations students so they can acquire the skills needed to enter the labour market and be full participants in the Canadian economy.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Program provides eligible students ordinarily living on-reserve with elementary and secondary education programmes comparable to those in provincial schools. For students who live on-reserve but attend school off-reserve, INAC pays the tuition amount charged by the province.

The Education Partnerships Program (EPP) is a proposal-based programme designed to promote collaboration between First Nations, provinces, INAC and other stakeholders. The programme supports the establishment and advancement of formal partnership arrangements that develop practical working relationships between officials and educators in provincial systems and regional First Nation organisations and schools.

The First Nation Student Success Program (FNSSP) is designed to support First Nation educators on-reserve (kindergarten to grade 12) in their ongoing efforts to meet students’ needs and improve student and school results. In particular, the programme supports activities that increase student achievement levels in reading and writing (literacy), mathematics (numeracy) and encourage students to remain in school (student retention).

The New Paths for Education Program funds projects and activities that improve the quality of education in First Nation schools and enhance the educational experiences of students, teachers, administrators, parents and communities. These include professional development for teachers, curriculum development, involvement of parents in children’s education and more.

The High-Cost Special Education Program funds band-operated schools for high-cost special education students assessed with moderate to profound learning disabilities The High-Cost Special Education Program is designed to help eligible students to access quality programmes and services that are culturally sensitive and reflective of generally accepted provincial/territorial standards. Students identified as having mild to moderate learning disabilities are supported through the Elementary and Secondary Education Program.

The Postsecondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) provides funding (through recipient organisations/Band Councils) to First Nation and eligible Inuit students enrolled in eligible postsecondary programmes. The programme aims to improve the employability of First Nation and Inuit students by providing them with funding to access education and skills development opportunities at the postsecondary level.

The University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP) provides financial assistance to First Nation and eligible Inuit students enrolled in university or college entrance programmes to help them gain the academic level required to enter a degree or diploma programme.

The Postsecondary Partnerships Program (PSPP) provides funding to eligible Canadian postsecondary institutions to design and deliver university- and college-level courses tailored for First Nations and eligible Inuit students. These courses help students gain the skills they need to enter and succeed in the labour market. Indspire is an Indigenous-led charity that invests in the education of indigenous people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities and Canada. INAC provides funds to Indspire to:

  • Offer scholarships and bursaries to First Nation and Inuit students to pursue postsecondary education

  • Identify and honour the outstanding achievements of First Nation and Inuit people so that their accomplishments can serve as an inspiration to young people

  • Hold youth career fairs, targeted at indigenous youth from grades to 10 to 12, in two different Canadian cities each year

Other education initiatives

The Government of Canada also negotiates self-government as a mechanism to improve education outcomes. The Mi’kmaq Education Agreement is a promising example of these improvements. This agreement conferred law-making authority to its 12 Nova Scotia First Nations signatories, and created a new organisation to administer its member communities’ schools. These communities have seen notable improvements in student outcomes, and in 2014-15 achieved a graduation rate of 89.6%, comparable to the provincial average of 92.5% (INAC, 2013). The Government of Canada has also signed a Tripartite Education Framework Agreement with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and the province of British Columbia in January 2012. The Agreement recognizes that FNESC has the capacity and responsibility for administering second level services to participating First Nations and First Nation schools in British Columbia, and is supported by a new funding model that funds First Nation schools on reserve in the same way as similarly sized and situated provincial public schools. The Agreement:

  • Outlines the standards, programmes, services and school supports which address the unique needs of First Nation students;

  • Supports the delivery of quality education programmes and services meeting standards that allow First Nation students to transfer without academic penalty, at similar levels of achievement, between First Nation schools and provincial schools;

  • Recognises FNESC and First Nations have worked to establish an education system to support First Nation students and schools that reflects the values and traditions of the communities they serve;

  • Recognises FNESC has demonstrated the capacity to administer education programmes and second level services on behalf of First Nations and First Nation schools in BC;

  • Is supported by a new funding model for participating BC First Nations that will fund First Nation schools on reserve in the same way as similarly sized and situated BC public schools.

Several other First Nations have either negotiated, or are currently negotiating, jurisdiction over education as part of either a combined comprehensive land claim and self-government agreement, or a stand-alone self-government agreement. Examples of some indigenous groups with completed agreements that include jurisdiction over education are: Westbank First Nation, Nisga’a Lisims First Nation, and Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. In some cases, where agreements have been completed, communities have not opted to operate their own education systems, and instead have worked on a government-to-government basis with the province to have their students educated in provincial schools. Examples of indigenous groups currently negotiating jurisdiction over self-government include: the Union of Ontario Indians, the Mowhawk Council of Akwesasne, Whitecap Dakota First Nation, and Miawpukek First Nation.

Economic development and employment

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is the lead federal department for the management of economic development policies for indigenous peoples. The management of economic development policies is composed of the following policy and programme areas: Aboriginal Entrepreneurship, Community Economic Development, Strategic Partnerships, Infrastructure and Capacity, Administration of Reserve Land, and Urban Aboriginal Participation. The management and implementation of various Treaties and Agreements between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples includes an important economic development component.

Through its Northern Development mandate, INAC is the lead federal department for two-fifths of Canada’s landmass, with a direct role in the political and economic development of the territories, and significant responsibilities for science, land, and environmental management. In the North, the territorial governments generally provide the majority of social programmes and services to all Northerners, including indigenous peoples. Other federal government departments and agencies such as the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) also play major roles in the development of the North.

The following is a description of the programmes and policy areas within INAC in the management of economic development policies.

  • The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program supports the creation and growth of viable indigenous businesses by facilitating increased access to business capital, support services and business opportunities. In playing this key support role, the programme seeks to influence the longer-term viability of indigenous business, leading to improved economic prosperity for indigenous Canadians.

  • The Community Economic Development Program enhances the value of indigenous assets, by supporting activities that promote the underlying conditions for economic development. In playing this key support role, Community Economic Development programming expects to promote greater self-reliance and participation in the mainstream economy, and community well-being.

  • The Strategic Partnerships is an innovative horizontal initiative intended to align federal efforts to enhance Aboriginal participation in complex economic development opportunities, particularly for engaging larger regional economic investment opportunities and/or potential major resource development. The programme provides a mechanism for federal partners to collectively identify these emerging opportunities, target investment decisions, and streamline the necessary programme applications and approval processes to support and enhance indigenous communities’ engagement at the earliest stages of large and complex economic development opportunities. In the process, this approach helps build closer partnerships with non-federal partners, including provincial and territorial governments, the private sector, and indigenous communities. Thus, the programme serves to align all federal government efforts in leveraging investments from other levels of government and the private sector, and addressing gaps in programming, to ensure indigenous Canadians can participate in and benefit from priority regional opportunities and major resource developments.

  • The Infrastructure and capacity programme supports First Nation communities in acquiring, constructing, owning, operating and maintaining a base infrastructure that protects their health and safety and enables their engagement in the economy. The sub-programmes provide funding and advice to support housing, capacity building, and community infrastructure, including water and wastewater systems, education facilities, roads and bridges, electrification, and community buildings.

  • The Northern Land, Resources and Environmental Management Program focuses on the management, sustainable development and regulatory oversight of the land, water, natural resources, and environment of the North, delivering on INAC’s role as the Government of Canada’s natural resource manager in Nunavut and the offshore, and its post-devolution responsibilities in the Northwest Territories and Yukon. This programme involves managing oil and gas resources development; supporting the sustainable management of active mineral exploration and development; supporting the sound management of contaminated sites, Nunavut and the few remaining department-managed land and water areas in the North; and ensuring the completion of territorial land-use planning, including zones for conservation, development and other uses.

Labour markets and skills training

Economic development and job creation for indigenous people is an important priority, guided by the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development. INAC works with ESDC in developing indigenous human capital. An estimated 350 000 Indigenous youth will turn 15 years old between 2016-26 (Statistics Canada, 2015), which provides an unprecedented opportunity to leverage investments in job and skills training and employment readiness for indigenous youth in order to fill crucial labour shortages (ESDC, 2013).

ESDC funds indigenous labour market programmes to increase workforce participation and to help indigenous people prepare for, find, and keep jobs. Indigenous agreement holders deliver these programmes across Canada. Additionally, through the Skills and Partnership Fund, ESDC provides skills and employment training for in-demand jobs. This fund helps indigenous organisations partner with government, business, and local community organisations to improve skills training and create job opportunities. Projects focus largely, though not exclusively, on training for specific job vacancies in high demand sectors (e.g. trades, mining and energy).

Through the indigenous labour market programmes, ESDC provides skills and employment training to increase workforce participation and help First Nations, Métis and Inuit people prepare for, find and maintain jobs.

The Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy provides a suite of skills development and training from essential skills acquisition (e.g. literacy and numeracy) to more advanced training-to-employment programming for indigenous people across the country. Funding is provided to a network of 84 indigenous organisations that design and deliver programmes and services through over 600 points of service across the country.

The Skills and Partnership Fund is a partnership-based, opportunity driven programme targeting job training and skills development for indigenous people so they may fill specific job vacancies in high demand sectors such as natural resource development and the digital economy.

The First Nations Jobs Fund is a component of the on-reserve Income Assistance Reform and provides personalised job training and support to young on-reserve income assistance recipients in participating communities to help them connect with available jobs. The First Nations Job Fund is delivered by the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy network.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada also addresses labour market participation by investing in the Aboriginal Capacity Development Program administered by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporation Association. The programme supports the training activities of Aboriginal Financial Institution staff on the effective and consistent delivery of developmental lending and business support services for indigenous entrepreneurs. The Department’s Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business also encourages the participation of indigenous businesses and labour force in the economy.

The Aboriginal Economic Development Program within INAC aims to build and promote viable Indigenous businesses and opportunity-ready communities. This programme supports the vision of increasing the participation of indigenous individuals and communities in the Canadian economy and enabling indigenous people to pursue the same opportunities for employment, income and wealth creation as other Canadians.

Through the Income Assistance Reform, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada work together to connect Income Assistance clients aged between 18-24 with skills training and jobs. This programme supports the capacity of First Nation service providers in providing individualised case management and provides clients with a range of pre-employment, counselling interventions and skills training.

The Youth Employment Strategy is the Government of Canada’s commitment to help young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market. INAC is one of eleven federal Departments which deliver programming in support of the Strategy. The First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy (FNIYES) supports initiatives to provide First Nations and Inuit youth with work experience, information about career options, and opportunities to develop skills to help gain employment and develop careers. This strategy includes two programmes: the First Nations and Inuit Summer Work Experience Program and the First Nations and Inuit Skills Link Program.

The First Nations and Inuit Summer Work Experience Program provides youth with employment opportunities where they can gain work experience and develop important skills such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork. Summer work placements allow youth to learn about career options and to earn income that may contribute to university or college education.

The First Nations and Inuit Skills Link Program supports initiatives that assist young people in acquiring the essential skills that will help them gain employment, function well in the workplace and learn about job and career options. The programme also promotes the benefits of education to future participation in the labour force

Urban Indigenous People

Nearly 50% of First Nations now live in urban centres (Environics Institute, 2011; FitzMaurice, Kevin, 2012). Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector) manage the Urban Aboriginal Strategy. This programme supports the participation of urban indigenous individuals and communities in the economy, particularly by working to incorporate the crucial role played by urban indigenous organisations across Canada. The Strategy is comprised of two streams: Community Capacity Support; and, Urban Partnerships (INAC, 2015).

Urban Partnerships encourages partnership development and community planning, making investments in projects that increase the participation of urban indigenous people in the economy. This programme brings together governments, indigenous communities and the private and not-for-profit sectors to support projects that remove barriers preventing urban indigenous people from fully participating in the economy. Projects that can be considered for funding include initiatives, research and approaches that increase the economic participation of urban indigenous individuals and communities.

In order to achieve more substantive outcomes in urban indigenous communities, the programme collaborates with key stakeholders to undertake strategic planning, articulate outcomes for communities, identify priorities, and jointly implement initiatives. In its approach, the programme provides a vehicle by which the federal government can work with other governments, urban indigenous organisations, and other stakeholders to support urban indigenous individuals and communities in pursuing social and economic opportunities.

The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) delivers a portion of the Urban Partnerships funding for initiatives that benefit urban indigenous people by responding to priorities identified in the various regional strategic plans developed by INAC in partnership with the provinces and territories.

The Community Capacity Support programme provides operational funding to urban indigenous community organisations to help them maintain a strong and stable base. This strong and stable base enables these organisations to attract further public and private contributions, while assisting them in delivering programs and services on an on-going basis that support the increased participation of urban indigenous people in the economy. The NAFC has been engaged to deliver the Community Capacity Support funding in accordance with programme’s objectives and criteria developed by INAC.


The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship (IRC) Settlement Program assists newcomers outside of Quebec,1 to overcome integration barriers so that they can participate in social, cultural, civic and economic life in Canada. Specifically, the Settlement Program aims to help communities build welcoming spaces, as well as provide newcomers with:

  • Information about Canada and the community in which they intend to settle.

  • The language skills to achieve their settlement and integration goals.

  • Assistance in finding and retaining employment.

  • The support they need to build networks within their new communities, as well as with employers.

Services are provided pre- and post-arrival through online resources, publications, in‐person services as well as through referrals to other available community supports. To address the labour market barriers faced by low and high-skilled newcomers, such as lack of Canadian experience and professional networks, IRC supports a variety of employment services through the Settlement Program, including: the provision of labour market information; employment and job-finding assistance, including Canadian workplace orientation; mentoring and work placements; job-search workshops on networking, resume and interview preparation; job-specific language training; essential skills training; and, preparation for licensure and alternative career initiatives. These services are complemented by services geared towards employers, which help them attract, hire, and retain newcomers.

IRC is continually looking for ways to strengthen its Settlement Program. Currently, the Department is focusing on employment supports for permanent residents, as well as exploring new ways to engage the private sector in welcoming newcomers. IRC partners with nearly 700 organisations, and in some cases, with provincial and territorial programmes, to deliver settlement programming.

In Canada, a license is necessary to perform certain regulated professions and trades, such as doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, plumbers, and carpenters. Authorities mandated by each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories provide these licenses. These authorities are responsible to assess and recognise foreign training and experience, also called the Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) process. The federal government, through the Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP), helps licensing authorities, through financial assistance and expertise, to facilitate internationally trained individuals get their credentials recognised so they can put their skills and experience to work faster anywhere in Canada.

A key priority of the FCRP is to implement the 2009 Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications (the Framework). The Framework, launched by the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM), is a joint vision by federal, provincial and territorial governments to work together to ensure that regulatory authorities have FCR processes in place that adhere to the Framework’s principles of fairness, consistency, transparency and timeliness. Governments have first targeted 14 in-demand regulated occupations as the common focal point for individual and collective actions: architects, engineers, financial auditors and accountants, medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, registered nurses, dentists, engineering technicians, licensed practical nurses, medical radiation technologists, physicians and teachers. Internationally trained individuals applying to any of these target occupations can expect to have their credentials assessed within one year anywhere in Canada. In 2014 the FLMM announced the addition of 10 new target occupations to the Framework: geoscientists, carpenters, electricians, heavy duty equipment technicians, heavy equipment operations, welders, audiologists and speech language pathologists, midwives, psychologists and lawyers.

FCRP also provides financial support to regulatory bodies and their national professional associations to develop tools and processes with the goal of removing barriers to labour mobility as set out in the amended Chapter 7 of the Agreement on Internal Trade.

In 2012, ESDC launched the Foreign Credential Recognition Loan Pilot. The key goal of the pilot was to determine if there was a need for financial assistance by newcomers for FCR and whether loans would be successful in accelerating the credential recognition process and helping newcomers find commensurate employment. The loans targeted university-educated newcomers intending to work in regulated occupations that are in high-demand in Canada. A successful component of the pilot was the provision of support services by community-based partners to ensure individuals were successful through the credential recognition process, including the development of a career plan and assistance in navigating credential recognition requirements.

Older Workers

The Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW) is a federal provincial/territorial cost-shared initiative designed to support unemployed older workers (normally age 55-64) living in small, vulnerable communities of 250 000 or less which have been affected by high unemployment, significant downsizing/closures, unfulfilled employer demand and/or skills mismatches with their reintegration into employment. Unemployed older workers between the age of 50-54 and over age 64 may also be eligible for TIOW provided that their participation is not at the exclusion of those in the core age group.

Under TIOW, funds are transferred via contribution agreements to provinces and territories based on an allocation. The provinces and territories are responsible for targeting specific communities for interventions as well as for designing and delivering projects that meet their local labour market situations and client needs. Within a TIOW project, a wide range of activity categories are considered eligible, including: basic skills upgrading, specific skills training, community-based work experience, direct marketing to employers and job development and post-project follow-up mentoring and support. employment assistance activities are mandatory for all projects, regardless of other activities. These can include resume writing, interview techniques, informational interviewing, networking, counselling and other related job finding activities.

Vulnerable Persons

Constitutionally, provinces and territories are primarily responsible for social assistance with the exception of specific Government of Canada responsibilities set aside for individuals and families who are ordinarily resident in First Nation reserves (i.e., indigenous peoples). However, the Government of Canada offers funds for a number of programmes designed to assist individuals who have little or no labour force attachment, including those receiving social assistance, to prepare for, obtain and keep employment or to become self-employed.

The Canada Job Fund Agreements with provinces and territories provide funding for programming to assist individuals in finding and maintaining employment with priority being given to unemployed persons who are not eligible for EI Part II programming and low-skilled employed. Interventions may include counselling, job search assistance, wage subsidies, on-the-job training, entrepreneurial development, and literacy and basic skills development.

Canadians, particularly from vulnerable groups, may not have the literacy and essential skills needed to fully participate in the labour force. The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) works with provincial and territorial governments; postsecondary educational institutions; training service providers; and employers, to help improve the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians. In particular, the Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program targets labour market stakeholders as well as groups that are under-represented in the labour force to improve awareness and integration of literacy and essential skills into programmes and activities.

Announced in Budget 2013, the Income Assistance Reform is a horizontal initiative between INAC and ESDC which provides indigenous youth, receiving income assistance, with the skills and training needed to secure employment.

The Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities allows persons with disabilities who are unemployed and normally not eligible for EI Part II programming to access a range of interventions and services. These include job search supports, coaching, counselling, resume writing, interview preparation, job placements, tuition assistance, wage subsidies, entrepreneurial training, and employer awareness activities. Starting in 2015-16, this fund will provide more demand-driven training solutions for persons with disabilities and involve employers and community organisations in project design and delivery.

Official Language Minority Communities

The Enabling Fund for Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC) is an integral component of the Government of Canada’s strategy for official languages. The federal government is committed to promoting official languages and enhancing the vitality of OLMCs.

ESDC supports this priority through the Enabling Fund, which assists OLMC organisations that employ professional development staff in more than 50 locations across Canada. These organisations constitute a pan-Canadian network of economic and human resource development leaders serving Canada’s OLMCs.

EF organisations assist OLMC workers, jobseekers and youth by providing local labour market information and supports to enhance employability. In addition, OLMC organisations develop and broker partnerships with government departments and ministries, and learning and private sector organisations to design/deliver labour market responsive initiatives.

Supporting local economic development in Canada

While there are many organisations and actors involved in economic development activities across Canada, at the federal level, the following departments and organisations have significant activities in Saskatchewan and the Yukon.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is mandated to help make Canadian industry more productive and competitive in the global economy, thus improving the economic and social well-being of Canadians. Competitive businesses are drivers of sustainable economic development. Industry Canada’s Small Business Branch is responsible for enhancing growth and competitiveness of small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship through policy development, and the delivery of programmes. Programmes include the Canada Small Business Financing Program, a loan-loss sharing programme which allows the government to fill a market gap by sharing the risk of lending to small and medium-sized enterprises with financial institutions. Industry Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program provides innovation and funding services to businesses to help accelerate growth through innovation and technology.

Industry Canada also provides functional guidance to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), which helps to create and develop Canadian businesses through financing, consulting services and securitization, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises. BDC also offers specialised financing, including venture capital, equity as well as growth and business transition capital.

Regional Development Agencies work to foster economic development in specific regions of Canada. The six agencies work to support a variety of industry sectors, through targeted business development programmes. They focus on outreach and collaboration efforts that engage local community leaders and stakeholders, including provincial and federal partners, municipalities, indigenous communities, postsecondary institutions, business associations, community economic development organisations, financial institutions, and the not-for-profit sector.


The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) has a mandate to advance economic development in Canada’s northern territories and serve as the federal hub for these efforts. It does this by delivering a suite of economic development programmes, aligning the efforts of partners and stakeholders, particularly among federal organisations, and by developing policy and conducting research. As a key element in the “Northern Strategy”, the Agency helps to strengthen and diversify the economies in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon. CanNor’s contribution programmes, which help advance economic development across the territories, include:

  • The CAD 40 million (2014-16) Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development;

  • The CAD 10.8 million in annual funding under the Northern Aboriginal Economic Opportunities Program; and

  • The five year CAD 27 million Northern Adult Basic Education Program.

Additionally, the agency coordinates and serves as the regional delivery agent for certain national economic initiatives. CanNor’s Northern Project Management Office supports responsible northern resource development by providing guidance to industry and communities; coordinating federal efforts related to the regulatory review of major northern projects, and tracking the progress of projects. NPMO supports a more stable and attractive investment climate in the territories by improving the transparency, timeliness and predictability of the environmental assessment and permitting process. Since its creation in 2009, CanNor has invested over CAD 196 million in more than 918 projects in all three territories in key sectors, including mining, geoscience, tourism, fishing, cultural industries, skills development, broadband, power generation and infrastructure.

Western Economic Diversification

A department of the Government of Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) was established in 1987 under the provision of the Western Economic Diversification Act. WD works to improve the long-term economic competitiveness of the West (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia) and the quality of life of its citizens by supporting a wide range of initiatives targeting inter-related project activities to promote innovation, business development, and community economic development.

WD’s grants and contributions support projects delivered directly by WD, either alone or in partnership with other organisations. Groups eligible to apply under these programmes include universities and other postsecondary academic institutions, research institutes, industry associations and other not-for-profit organisations. The three main activities are:

  • The Western Innovation Initiative offers repayable contributions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with operations in Western Canada to move their new and innovative technologies from the later stages of research and development to the marketplace.

  • The Western Diversification Program invests in projects that support WD’s activities of innovation, business development, community economic development and policy, advocacy and co-ordination, including partnership programmes undertaken with other levels of government.

  • The Western Business Service Network is a group of several independent organisations that receive funding from WD to provide a range of services to help create and build small businesses across the West.


ESDC (2013), Aboriginal Labour Market Bulletin, Volume 2, Issue 2, Employment and Social Development Canada.

Government of Canada (1999), First Nations Land Management Act, Ottawa.

Government of Canada (1993), The Council for Yukon Indians and the Government of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, Ottawa.

Government of Canada (1985), Indian Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. I-5), Ottawa.

INAC (2015), “First Nations Land Management Regime”, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada,

INAC (2013), “Fact Sheet – 2011 National Household Survey Aboriginal Demographics, Educational Attainment and Labour Market Outcomes”, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada,

Skof, K. (2011), “Trends in Registered Apprenticeship Training in Canada, 1991 to 2009”, Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada, Vol. 8, No. 3.

Statistics Canada (2015), Projections of the Aboriginal Population and Households in Canada, Catalogue No. 91-552-X, ISSN 1927-6389.


← 1. The Canada-Quebec Accord provides the Government of Quebec with an annual grant, the amount of which is calculated using a formula set out in the Accord.  The grant covers settlement services, refugee resettlement and administration for which Quebec is responsible.