End of Training Program for Aboriginal People Threatens to Decrease Access to Jobs and Benefits of Mining

Ottawa – MiningWatch Canada is very disappointed to see the end of an important federal program that funded training for Aboriginal peoples across Canada. The Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership Program (ASEP) was not specific to the mineral sector but many of the projects that received funding focussed on the natural resources sectors and mining in particular. According to the government’s website, the program:

supports multi-year training-to-employment strategies that are developed and managed by formal partnerships between Aboriginal organizations and major employers and that lead to at least 50 long-term sustainable jobs.

The program ends as Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver concludes a cross-country trip touting the benefits of resource development to Canada and specifically to Aboriginal peoples.

“Accessing the jobs that come with mineral development remains a significant challenge for Aboriginal people across Canada,” commented MiningWatch’s Ramsey Hart. “The lack of necessary skills and qualifications means that many Aboriginal people aren’t in the running when jobs come to their area. Having spoken with program partners in BC and Northern Ontario, I’ve heard that the program was very effective and that it supported training activities that met the individual participant’s needs in a culturally appropriate and supportive way.”

The federal program covered 50% of the costs of training with the balance coming from the communities, educational institutions and industry. The program started in 2003 with $85 million over five years and was extended and expanded in 2007 to $105 million. A total of 25 different projects have been funded and ten of these were related to mining. The program ends this week but two of the three past recipients we spoke with feared for the future of their programs and had no indication of renewal or an alternative program being available. Federal government staff pointed to two other existing programs that are still being funded: the “Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy” and the “Skills and Partnership Fund”.

“While other programs may be ongoing, the end of the ASEP represents a significant reduction in funding for training Aboriginal people. The loss of the program is likely to mean fewer Aboriginal people working in the mineral sector, and will limit access to the higher-paid skilled positions. We will be watching the upcoming budget for a renewed commitment to supporting training that meets the needs of Aboriginal peoples,” concluded Hart.

Additional Links: Matachewan Aboriginal Access to Mine Training Strategy