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More needs to be done for Aboriginal joblessness

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Compiled by Shari Narine







University of Saskatchewan professor Eric Howe says the province is losing its battle against Aboriginal joblessness. According to recently released figures, Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 per cent in March, the lowest in Canada. However, the numbers for First Nations and Métis people, after years of gradual improvement, have stagnated in recent years. Métis unemployment levels hover in the 10 per cent range in Saskatchewan, with First Nations at roughly 15 per cent. More than 18,000 First Nation adults in the province remain on welfare, the same level as five years ago. Howe notes that some initiatives, including an Aboriginal education employment strategy the provincial government committed to in 2011; a database launched in March linking First Nations workers and contractors with educational institutions, government programs and large companies; and work programs undertaken by First Nations such as the Whitecap Dakota Nation and Lac la Ronge Indian Band, are all laudable, but more is needed. In 2013, Howe authored a study that stated Saskatchewan stood to lose $6.7 billion in gross domestic product if First Nations education and employment rates continued to stagnate. Howe said the proportion of Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan will increase dramatically in the coming decades, so the situation will become more urgent.