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Inuit employment level creeps up

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, October 8, 2007

NUNAVUT - The Government of Nunavut has achieved 50 per cent Inuit employment, according to a report released last week highlighting its progress as of March 31.

According to Article 23 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, federal and territorial governments must strive for representative levels of Inuit in its workforce.

This is generally considered to be 85 per cent.

The Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, which relies heavily on Inuktitut-speakers for much of its programming, had reported a high of 63 per cent.

Community and Government Services employed only 41 per cent, likely due to the technical nature of much of the work, according to Aluki Rojas, new deputy minister of Human Resources.

"Positions that require formal education and training, that takes a bit of time," she said. "If an individual wants to pursue formal education, they often have to leave the territory for a few years."

Originally from Iglulik, Rojas went south to Trent University, and remained in Ottawa working for a few years before returning to the territory.

"I think that we're slowly getting young people to fill the positions, but we're still playing catch-up. It takes time to make those changes," she said.

She said she hopes to see Inuit employment reach 56 per cent by 2010.

Meanwhile, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), a major federal employer in Nunavut, has yet to surpass the 30 per cent mark in its trek toward representational levels of employment.

"Our goal is to break through that barrier this year, to prove that we can get past that wall," said Michael Nadler, regional director general for INAC.

Similar to the GN, its professional areas requiring a higher level of training and education lag behind at 14 per cent, while middle management weighs in at about 21 per cent and administrative at 53 per cent, he estimated.

"The core challenge for us is that the bulk of our work is regulatory in nature," Nadler said. "Much of it requires an educational background, and there simply, regrettably, aren't a lot of Inuit with a university background, and even less with a scientific background."

Indian and Northern Affairs invests in recruitment strategies, which include funding for Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa, a successful summer student program and various training and development programs.

Unfortunately, it also sees many of its new employees cross over to other local employers, Nadler said.

"Retaining Inuit in a highly competitive labour market is quite tough. We don't compete well with the salaries at the GN," he said.

"The other challenge we face, and that we accept, is that we may be developing Inuit in our workforce who will be employed somewhere else."

That problem will likely get worse, as natural resources and construction in the territory continue to develop, he said.