Editorial Kelly J. Lendsay,

President and CEO, Aboriginal Human Resource Council

July 17, 2012

Corporations needed to support Conference Board of Canada Findings: Aboriginal Workforce Solution


On behalf of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council (AHRC) I would like to commend the Conference Board of Canada for their report: Understanding the Value, Challenges, and Opportunities of Engaging Métis, Inuit, and First Nations Workers.

Read the full article here


The survey findings reflect and restate the fundamental messages, principles and practices that AHRC has lived by since 1998. The survey has done a good job to gather information about the challenges underlying Aboriginal employment in Canada that our partners/stakeholders and AHRC have been working to overcome.

As we see it, the foundation of a more open and trusting relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canada will begin in the workplace. Inclusion of Aboriginal workers and increased employee diversity at all levels within the workforce will help dispel long-held misconceptions and improve understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Peoples and communities.


AHRC has been sending a clear and consistent message to employers for years, that Aboriginal people are a blueprint solution to Canada’s looming labour shortage AND an essential part of any organization in Canada that is willing to understand and learn about the value, challenges, and opportunities of engaging Métis, Inuit, and First Nations workers. We have also been saying that Aboriginal organizations need to bring non-Aboriginal people into their employ so we can all enjoy the benefits of an inclusive Canada. We believe that stating and understanding the Aboriginal solution is a good thing… but putting solutions in place to help resolve the issues and move Aboriginal employment forward is the logical step forward.


Our Leadership Circle partners, a like-minded network of over 60 of Canada’s top employers-of-choice, demonstrate that the effort they undertake to climb AHRC’s “Inclusion Continuum” to create an inclusive workplace that supports Aboriginal inclusion is paying off. This network of companies knows the business case for Aboriginal inclusion and its economic imperative to their bottom line and the Canadian economy. They understand that by giving back to the Aboriginal community and supporting the development of Aboriginal people we can collectively address fundamental socio-economic issues (education, health, housing, justice, etc.) to secure a strong Canada and Aboriginal workforce, one worker at a time.

In 2009, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) released a report showing that by 2016 more people will be leaving Canada’s workforce than entering it — the most serious threat our economy will face over the next 50 years, according to AIMS economist Brian Crowley.


Historically Canada has relied heavily on immigration to meet skills shortages and keep the economy growing. This is due partly to the country’s aging population and a low birth rate among non-Aboriginal people. Canada’s Aboriginal population is growing six times the rate of our non-Aboriginal population, and half live in urban centres – our homegrown labour market solution.

We also know that there’s chronic unemployment in the Aboriginal community, and it’s likely to get much worse as the population continues to grow unless we do something about it now.


A study released by The Centre for the Study of Living Standards found that if the gaps in education, employment and income were eliminated between Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population, our nation’s GDP would increase up to $401 billion by 2026 – a business case for Aboriginal inclusion that shouldn’t be ignored any longer.

There is a disconnect between mainstream Canada and the Aboriginal community. While there’s no doubt that gap is narrowing and some employers have made great strides towards the inclusion of Aboriginal people in their workforces, diversity remains the exception rather than the rule.

It has been especially difficult for Aboriginal job seekers to break into the job market, as the Conference Board of Canada’s survey verifies. Large companies, demonstrating the most motivation to implement Aboriginal inclusion practices, represented more than 45.5 of the jobs in Canada in 2008. Therefore, AHRC uses a skills and competency approach to offer training that helps these companies develop laser-like Aboriginal recruitment and retention strategies, while also making workplaces inviting, where Aboriginal people have equal opportunity to thrive and advance.

Our research shows that increasingly innovative and socially responsible companies are looking to build business relationships with Aboriginal communities. They see not only a potential source of skilled labour, but they also see an increased and rapidly growing labour market, the benefits of a diverse workplace, a client group that believes in corporate social responsibility, and a stronger socio-economic country. This is a good recipe for success for any economy.


Aboriginal Employment Centres {organizations within the federal government Aboriginal Skills and Employment Strategy (ASETS) program} have played a strong community-based role to develop partnerships with companies across all sectors of our economy to advance Aboriginal employment.

As a national non-profit social enterprise, AHRC has a distinctly different, but yet, very employer-focused role that complements the work of the Aboriginal Employment Centres. Our unique niche role is to build partnerships, tools and strategies that help organizations (with 500+ employees) become more effective in their Aboriginal recruitment, retention, advancement and economic development efforts. No other organization focuses on this segment of Canada’s employers in quite this way.


In fall 2012, AHRC will advance an online assessment tool and an online state-of-the art training platform – the “Inclusion Classroom”, designed specifically to help large companies advance inclusion.


At AHRC we want employers to look ahead to what their needs will be in the coming years and come to us for help to recruit, retain and advance Aboriginal people and Aboriginal economic development.

To learn about connection points to the Aboriginal workforce, inclusion tools, training, and Aboriginal/corporate success stories visit aboriginalhr.ca.

Kelly J. Lendsay is President and CEO of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, a national non-profit social enterprise with a mandate to advance the full participation in the economy of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and Indigenous Peoples around the world.