Natives Bore Brunt Of Job Losses In Canada, StatsCan Study Shows

Natives bore brunt of job losses in Canada, Statscan study shows

Stats show aboriginal workers were hit worse by the 2009 slump than average with the worst in BC and Alberta.
Experts blame lower education rates and lack of social support in cities for aboriginals drop in employment rates

Carly Weeks
From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, May. 13, 2010 7:53PM EDT
Last updated on Friday, May. 14, 2010 3:19AM EDT

Aboriginals have long struggled with higher unemployment than the rest of Canadians, but the recent economic downturn[] saw the trouble mount, widening the gap between natives and non-natives.

Thats the conclusion of a new report from Statistics Canada, and it is evident in such cities as Prince George, B.C., heavily reliant on the forestry industry, where the faltering economy wiped out jobs and most frequently the jobs of aboriginals.

Huge numbers of workers were left unemployed, said Karin Hunt, executive director of the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association.

Released Thursday, the Statscan study did not measure natives on reserve. But it showed that, in communities across Canada, aboriginal people not living on reserves were hit by bigger drops in employment rates from 2008 to 2009 than the rest of the population.

Its a growing trend, said Douglas Bland, chair in defence management studies at the Queens University School of Policy Studies and author of Uprising, a fictitious account of a native-led insurgency.

The unemployment rate[] among aboriginal people aged 15 and over rose to 13.9 per cent in 2009 from 10.4 per cent the previous year. At the same time, the unemployment rate for non-aboriginals rose to just over 8 per cent in 2009 from 6 per cent in 2008.

Employment rates among aboriginals dropped 3.2 percentage points from 2008 to 2009 to 57 per cent. For non-aboriginals, it dropped less than two percentage points to about 62 per cent.

The effects were seen the most in Alberta and B.C., the study shows, and a major portion of native job loss occurred in the manufacturing sector. There was a 30-per-cent employment decline for natives in manufacturing, compared to just 8 per cent among non-native manufacturing workers. A similar decline was noted in construction, with a 16-per-cent drop for native workers compared to 5 per cent for non-natives.

Aboriginal people are the last hired and first fired. Its an unfortunate reality, said Myron Sparklingeyes, acting executive director of the Oteenow Employment and Training Society, which helps connect native people in Edmonton with jobs.

Although his theory may sound too simplistic, it actually provides some important insights into a problem that has plagued the native community for years.

Lower education rates, lack of experience or skills and few social supports in urban communities create major obstacles that makes it difficult for some native people to get, or keep, jobs over a long period of time, said Wayne Helgason, executive director of the Social Planning Council, an organization focused on issues such as poverty, homelessness and crime.

Many urban centres are thriving cores of economic and business activity and theres a whole culture around that, connected families and connected groups, Mr. Helgason said. Aboriginal people havent broken into that, they havent stepped into the economy.

Lisa Charleyboy is trying to become an exception to that trend. Originally from Williams Lake, B.C., Ms. Charleyboy grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver but has just graduated from York University in Toronto. While a major portion of the jobs back in Williams Lake are in forestry or manual labour, Ms. Charleyboy said she aspires to write for a magazine, which is why she chose to move to Ontario.

It was a natural move that I would have to go to Toronto, whereas both of my siblings are in forestry, she said.

Prof. Bland said the key to reversing the poor employment trends among natives is education. Unless the countrys growing population of young aboriginals has an education that can give them the skills they need to get and keep a job, he said, the trend will never be broken.