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Aboriginal People as a Designated Group


(Adopted November 15, 2000)

Definition

For the purposes of equity programs, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission uses the following definition:

"Aboriginal people are those who identify themselves as First Nations, Métis or Inuit."

A woman who gained Indian status under the Indian Act through marriage to a First Nations man before 1985 is not considered an Aboriginal person for the purposes of this policy. She is not likely to encounter discrimination based on ancestry in the same way or to the same extent as other persons who self-identify as persons of Aboriginal ancestry. However, a woman who lost her Indian status under the Indian Act through marriage to a non-Indian man is considered an Aboriginal person for the purposes of this policy. She may continue to experience racism based on ancestry, despite the change in her legal status.

(NOTE: Prior to 1985 changes to the Indian Act, an Indian woman who married a non-Indian man lost her status as a registered Indian for the purposes of that Act. Conversely, a non-Indian woman gained Indian status upon marriage to an Indian man.)

Employers with equity plans should use the principle of self-identification. They should ask employees and prospective employees to indicate whether they are Aboriginal persons. In some circumstances, employers may request proof that an applicant or employee is a person of Aboriginal ancestry.

Goals

In the ideal workplace, employees are hired and promoted based on their skills and abilities and without regard to ancestry or perceived race. Their workplace environment is free of harassment. This is not the reality for most working-age Aboriginal people. To achieve the ideal requires many initiatives, such as the following.

  • Anti-racism policies and procedures
  • Policies and activities to encourage respect for cultural diversity
  • A support system for Aboriginal employees
  • Measures to address the glass ceiling with respect to Aboriginal persons
  • Partnerships with the Aboriginal community
  • Education on the rationale for equity initiatives
  • Many others, depending on the circumstances of the workplace

Numerical Goals

The long-term goal of an employment equity plan is to achieve, at all levels of an employer's workforce, representation of Aboriginal people that reflects the representation of working-age Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan as a whole or in the community in which the employer operates.

Taking into consideration a projected 2.3 percent annual increase, the representation of working-age Aboriginal people in the province over the next few years is expected to be as follows.

  • 2001 - 12.2 percent
  • 2002 - 12.5 percent
  • 2003 - 12.8 percent
  • 2004 - 13.0 percent
  • 2005 - 13.4 percent
  • 2006 - 13.7 percent

The current representation of working-age Aboriginal people is as follows in the following centres and region: North Battleford 14 %; Prince Albert 25 %; Northern Region of Saskatchewan 81 %. (Source: Northern Saskatchewan Training Needs Assessment Report 2000)

No projections into the future are available for Northern Saskatchewan or the cities of North Battleford or Prince Albert.

The employer's workforce representation goal should reflect the representation of the working-age population of Aboriginal people in the region or urban centre in which the employer primarily operates. If an employer has employees throughout the province, the employer's goal should be that of the province as a whole.

By establishing numerical goals, the Commission does not suggest that persons of Aboriginal ancestry should have access to only a portion of available jobs. The Commission believes that all qualified Aboriginal people should have access to, and be able to compete for, all available jobs.

To achieve a representative workforce, interim hiring goals should be higher than the long-term goals for the following reasons:

  • An employer who has not achieved the long-term goal of a representative workforce will need to ensure that the proportion of new employees who are Aboriginal people is higher than the long-term goal (e.g. 12.2 percent in 2001). The higher interim hiring rate is necessary to achieve the long-term goal within a reasonable period, because new employees constitute only part of the workforce.
  • An employer who has already achieved the long-term goal of a representative workforce will need to hire Aboriginal employees at a rate higher than the current long-term goal (e.g. 12.2 percent in 2001) to maintain a representative workforce because of the projected increase in the Aboriginal population.
  • In order to prepare for the projected increase in the Aboriginal working-age population, employers are encouraged to look at least three to five years ahead on the projection scale to set their interim goals.

The short-term goals for hiring or promoting Aboriginal people will be based on projected vacancies and the availability of qualified or qualifiable candidates.

Background

(Source: Aboriginal People in Canada's Labour Market by Michael Mendelson and Ken Battle, Caledon Institute of Social Policy.)

Section 47 of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code gives the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission authority to approve programs designed to prevent, eliminate or reduce disadvantages experienced by groups of individuals because of a prohibited ground of discrimination. To date, the Commission has approved equity plans for four groups: women, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and visible minorities. All four groups have experienced historical inequities that have become entrenched within educational, economic and other systems. To address ongoing systemic discrimination against these groups, the Commission has developed employment equity and education equity programs.

In 1996, Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan had the highest rates of unemployment and the lowest rates of participation relative to the general, provincial population. Twenty-five percent of the Aboriginal working-age population in Saskatchewan was unemployed, compared with a 10 percent unemployment rate for the general population. Only 54 percent of working-age Aboriginal people in Regina and Saskatoon participated in the workforce in 1996 compared with a rate of 70 percent for the total population.

With Saskatchewan's aging population, shrinking workforce and increasing labour needs, the province cannot afford to bypass this group of potential workers.

Demographic changes will see large increases in the Aboriginal working-age population over the next two decades. In 1996, 42 percent of the Aboriginal population in Saskatchewan was under 15 years old compared with 20 percent of the non-Aboriginal population. Between 1991 and 1996, the Aboriginal working-age population across Canada grew 33.3 percent compared with the non-Aboriginal population growth of 5.4 percent. Based on data from 1991 to 1996, the Aboriginal working-age population of Canada is expected to grow an average of 2.3 percent annually until 2016.

There has also been a tendency toward rural Aboriginal depopulation since the 1960s, increasing the working-age population in the urban centres. By the year 2016 it is estimated that at least 16 percent of the Aboriginal working-age population will be concentrated in Regina and Saskatoon.

Discussion

There are similarities between the various First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures, but there is also much diversity between and within these groups. The Commission recognizes these differences, but for equity purposes uses the general terms "Aboriginal people" or "people of Aboriginal ancestry".

The Commission does not differentiate between status and non-status First Nations people. For equity purposes, these people are viewed as Aboriginal persons or people of Aboriginal ancestry.

Persons are viewed as Métis for equity purposes if they can show membership in a Métis local, acceptance or recognition as Métis by the Métis community, or historical Aboriginal ancestry.