Rhetoric about First Nations employment doesn’t match up with government’s first budget
In his first budget speech, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau (pictured above) highlighted the importance of helping aboriginal Canadians gain employment and enter the market economy. He stated in the house that:
“We simply cannot claim to be successful as a country as long as indigenous peoples aren’t given every chance to succeed. In economic terms, the arguments are irrefutable. With an aging population, the Canadian economy needs more workers. The indigenous population is young and growing.”
And he’s right. The Aboriginal population in Canada now represents four per cent of the Canadian population and the median age for the Aboriginal population is 28 years of age; substantially lower than the median age of all other Canadians (41 years). And according to Statistics Canada more than 18 per cent of the Aboriginal population in Canada is between the ages of 15 and 24. And the 15 to 64 year old cohort represents more than 66 per cent of the Aboriginal population in Canada.
In addition to being a very young population, the Aboriginal community in Canada faces high unemployment rates. Research has shown that the current unemployment rate on reserve is over 20 per cent. In fact, Fraser Institute research has shown that for communities located near potential oil and gas projects unemployment rates are above 40 per cent.
So, back to yesterday’s federal budget. With a growing and young Aboriginal population in Canada, surely a substantial portion of the $8.4 billion designated for Aboriginal people over the next five years will go towards skills training for that 15 to 24-plus aboriginal cohort, right?
It turns out only 0.2 per cent (or $15 million) of the $8.4 billion is earmarked for skills and employment training for Aboriginal Canadians.
So where is the rest of the $8.385 billion going?
In addition to K-12 education, housing and infrastructure funding, a portion will also go towards aboriginal political organizations. In fact, over the next five years aboriginal political and regional organizations will receive $96 million to “engage with the government.”
In other words, the government has allocated six times more funding for Aboriginal political organizations than for skills and employment training for one of the youngest, fastest growing populations in Canada that also has one of the highest rates of unemployment. It’s unfortunate that the government’s budget allocations run directly counter to their rhetoric regarding the importance of Aboriginal people participating in the Canadian economy.