After being questioned about low Inuit employment rates at Nunavut’s operational mines, Economic Development Minister David Akeeagok admitted that too many jobs are going to southerners.
“Yes, we’re missing out. There’s a big opportunity. Yeah, it doesn’t matter if it’s just in the mines, we have missed a lot. It’s for sure, that’s true, you can see that. It’s very apparent,” Akeeagok said in the legislative assembly on Thursday. “There are a lot of statistics out there as to the number of Inuit who are unemployed, and that can get employment. There’s a great number. As for the opportunities that are out there, the jobs, we cannot take a stick and force Inuit to go and work at these sites or to take advantage of these opportunities, although it’s quite nice to see that these opportunities are available.”
Akeeagok cited recent statistics indicating that Inuit represent close to 37 per cent of Agnico Eagle’s employees in Nunavut and approximately 14 per cent of TMAC Resources and Baffinland Iron Mines’ workforces.
Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main also lamented the small fraction of Inuit workers at the mines.
“There are four thousand jobs that are being accessed by others that could easily be accessed by Inuit,” he said. “It could be used to buy Ski-Doos, to buy homes, or to buy food for hungry children. Yes, it is sad. We miss out on a lot of opportunities for Inuit.”
Main added that Inuit organizations, hamlets and the private sector should all be involved in building the Inuit workforce. He noted that the Hamlet of Arviat hosted a mine training program with funding from Economic Development.
Akeeagok agreed, and said his department would further promote work and training in the mining sector.
“We must proceed with our partner organizations, and schedule a meeting to develop these initiatives and to see them come to fruition,” he said.
Agnico Eagle recently announced a $5-million donation, part of which will be devoted to establishing a mine training centre in Rankin Inlet.