First Nations, Metis, and Inuit youth are the fastest-growing age group in Canada, but they are a demographic that is commonly excluded from the workforce. Indigenous people make up 4.9% of the population, and while 1.6% of this group who are aged 25-54 have a college diploma, most have 5-10 years of work experience. This gap in perceived expertise or training, along with bias and discrimination in hiring practices, might be some of the factors keeping Indigenous people from the workforce.
To help bridge this gap, we’ve collected 5 tips for working with Indigenous people from Indigenous women, with many thanks to Bill Couchie, FNMI Program Manager at Skills Ontario, who shared these insights at a recent Indigenous Workforce Event.
Working with Indigenous Peoples: Creating An Inclusive Recruitment Process
Recognize Indigenous culture and world views: Indigenous cultures are as diverse as the people and groups they make up. However, settler culture has a tendency to view First Nations, Metis, and Inuit cultures as homogenous. Remember that what is true for one person/group may not be true for another, just as it would be for a person of European, Asian, African, or Latin American descent.
Use inclusive language: Don’t refer to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people as Indigenous people of Canada. Whenever possible, refer to a person’s tribe or culture. For example, instead of Indigenous or First Nations, an Indigenous person from the eastern Ontario region might culturally come from the Anishinaabe tribe. If you don’t know a person’s tribe, ask.
Honour and respect Indigenous culture: First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples feel strong ties to their traditions, because, for a long time, many of those traditions were kept from them. Settler culture, however, often views Indigenous people and culture as static and unchanging, but such assumptions could not be farther from the truth. We can honour Indigenous traditions while also recognizing Indigenous people autonomy today.
Consult with Indigenous communities and the projects that impact them: If you’re undertaking a project related to Indigenous communities and culture or that will directly impact Indigenous people, talk to them about it. Approach these conversations as a partnership. Most importantly, don’t hire non-Indigenous folks to speak on Indigenous issues.
Learn and teach Indigenous history at work: Indigenous peoples have a complicated and often traumatic history with the Canadian government. This is not the fault of settlers today, but settlers of all backgrounds benefit from the choices the Canadian government made - often at the expense of Indigenous culture, land, and people. Take some time to learn about Indigenous history. Promises were made that were broken and have never been acknowledged. Indigenous land, culture, opportunity, and most importantly, Indigenous people were taken by the Canadian government. Learning and teaching Indigenous history at work provides more opportunities for allyship, which is understanding and empathy in action.
First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people still experience systemic racism at work, school, and in everyday life. An Indigenous glass ceiling still exists, preventing many Indigenous folks from reaching the higher levels of the professional world. Like other members of the Hidden Workforce, these barriers can be overcome with the help of optimized strategies for recruitment and retention in Eastern Ontario. Employers can and should be a part of the solution to include all members of the workforce.