Executive Summary

Canada’s Indigenous population, consisting of First Nations, Inuit and Métis, is a growing demographic group. In 2016, there were 1 673 785 Indigenous People in Canada, accounting for 4.9% of the total population. This was a substantial increase from 3.8% in 2006. According to Statistics Canada, since 2006, the Indigenous population has grown by 42.5% — more than four times the growth rate of the non-Indigenous population.

In addition to the overall growth, there has also been a significant movement of Indigenous People to urban places in Canada. From 2006 to 2016, the Indigenous population living in metropolitan areas of Canada increased by 59.7%. While population growth is occurring both on-reserve and off-reserve, 51.8% of the overall Indigenous population live in an urban setting.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians do not share the same labour market outcomes. In 2016, the unemployment rate for Indigenous people was 15.3%, compared to 7.4% for non-Indigenous People. Within Indigenous groups, unemployment was high for Inuit (22.4%) and First Nations (18%) relative to Métis (11.2%). Indigenous People also have lower levels of education and skills outcomes. In 2016, 40% of the Indigenous population completed postsecondary education, compared to 55.9% of the non-Indigenous population. Higher levels of skills are critical for Indigenous People as they lead to better quality and more productive jobs.

This report takes a case study approach to understand the implementation of Indigenous labour market and skills training programmes. A key success factor identified is that programmes are most successful when they delivered and managed by Indigenous People for Indigenous People. Several other factors have also been identified for continued success, including:

  • Governance through partnerships and engagement: Effective governance is critical in making decisions that are informed, open, and transparent. Continuous engagement with Indigenous organisations to discuss workforce gaps and opportunities can ensure that all levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal) ensure on-going improvements in the effectiveness of programmes and services to meet Indigenous Peoples’ needs;

  • Access to culturally-sensitive services for urban Indigenous People: Many non-Indigenous urban service delivery organisations do not necessarily provide culturally sensitive services to Indigenous People. Furthermore, information on where and how to access programmes and services is sometimes not readily available to urban Indigenous People. This situation can be especially challenging for Indigenous People who are moving from their community into an urban area. Programmes have the greatest chance of success when delivered in a culturally-sensitive manner;

  • Local leadership: City mayors regularly participate in meetings with Indigenous communities; therefore, they have an important role to play in fostering trust. The examples from Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Fredericton and Calgary show a clear leadership role being taken by the municipal government. These cities have strategic policy frameworks targeted to the urban Indigenous population, providing good examples that can be used for continuous improvement in other Canadian cities, and

  • Social capital and community-driven initiatives: Social capital enhances local cooperation. The most significant improvements in the lives of Indigenous People come from within the community itself. Any policy or programme that seeks to improve the well-being of Indigenous People needs to ascertain how Indigenous People wish to define success in a local development context, based on the principles of reconciliation and self-determination.

Overall, the federal government is making strong efforts to reset the policy discourse around Indigenous People in Canada. Stronger partnerships with Indigenous communities based on open dialogue and learning can only favour better outcomes over the long term. This report makes the following recommendations:

  • Consider injecting additional flexibility into the management of Indigenous labour market and skills training programming: This could be achieved by easing the reporting and accountability requirements on Indigenous service providers. It could also be achieved by establishing longer-term funding arrangements. The federal government’s 2018 Budget announced the creation of the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program, including 10 year funding agreements. This is a welcome development;

  • Continue work to improve alignment of federal and provincial Indigenous labour market programming: It is critical to continue to build on the activities and successes in improving federal-provincial/territorial and Indigenous partnerships in the delivery of Indigenous programming, especially at the urban level in order to maximize effectiveness of efforts and investments;

  • Leverage the role of cities in addressing the needs of urban Indigenous People: Cities can be policy spaces of opportunity to test new ideas and pilot new ways of partnering with Indigenous organisations. Urban Indigenous policies can have a stronger impact when designed in partnership with cities to ensure that urban zones are safe, rewarding, and productive environments for Indigenous People;

  • Improve the collection and use of Indigenous Labour Market Information (LMI): Indigenous LMI could be enhanced through collaborations with Indigenous groups. The federal government should consider increasing investments in Indigenous specific LMI;

  • Look for opportunities to enhance skills training for Indigenous People through targeted work experience programmes: ISET includes a greater focus on getting Indigenous People into higher quality jobs. To achieve this, it will be important to encourage and provide supports for life-long learning opportunities, especially for Indigenous Peoples who are already working;

  • Expand access to higher education opportunities to support Indigenous students: The federal government should explore how to support the increase of successful completion of higher education by Indigenous Peoples, with the goal of increasing Indigenous employment within knowledge-based occupations;

  • Consider increasing the use of mentorship as a key tool for supporting Indigenous employment: Increasing opportunities for Indigenous mentorship will lead to greater employee retention and build cultural awareness about Indigenous People in the workplace, and

  • Explore the use of social enterprises as a pathway to economic prosperity for Indigenous People: Many Indigenous entrepreneurs cite substantial difficulties obtaining ample start-up funding. The federal government should continue to support and encourage the development of social enterprises as they often balance both social and profitability goals.