In 2010-2011, Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE) undertook an exploratory study in Northern Saskatchewan with the goal of understanding Aboriginal women’s employment experiences in the mining sector. The key purposes of the study were:
This builds upon the 2009 PWHCE report entitled Aboriginal Women’s Employment in Non-Traditional and Resource Extractive Industries in Manitoba: An Exploration of the Issues. While many of the women in the 2009 study had positive training and employment experiences, they did identify the need for greater training opportunities, the provision of more social supports including flexible childcare, and gender-designated spaces. They also identified the workplace culture, sexual harassment and racism as challenges to Aboriginal women being able to benefit from economic opportunities within these industries. The 2010-2011 study wanted to see whether these same findings held true for Aboriginal women working in Northern Saskatchewan.
- To provide a venue for Aboriginal women to voice their perceptions and experiences of working in mining in Northern Saskatchewan.
- To explore the positive and negative socio-economic and health outcomes of employment in mining for Aboriginal women, their families and communities.
- To understand the opportunities and challenges of recruitment and retention of Aboriginal women within mining in Northern Saskatchewan.
This current research contributes to a small but growing body of research calling for a gendered and culturally grounded analysis of the experiences and effects of resource extractive industries on Aboriginal women, families and communities in Canada.
The report has three parts. Following an introductory section, which sets the context, it turns directly to the voices of the women. Their narratives provide insights to their employment within the field including recruitment, training, income, working arrangements, work culture and workplace health and safety. Based on these stories, in the third part we discuss the commonalities and differences with the findings from Northern Manitoba. It concludes by drawing up a number of recommendations for consideration.
To facilitate Aboriginal women’s continued and growing employment in mining in Northern Saskatchewan, a number of recommendations have been drawn up. These recommendations focus on breaking down the persistent gender-based barriers that challenge Aboriginal women from fully benefiting from northern industrial development. While some of these recommendations include tapping into already existing, top-down industry policies, others could be more localized and bottom-up and would include more in depth conversations with Aboriginal women employees for local response.
Training and Employment
- Diversify the training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal women across the sector, in both traditional and non-traditional jobs.
- Promote Aboriginal women role models in diverse employment positions.
- Recognize Aboriginal women’s multiple roles as mothers, caregivers and employees and assist them with meeting the challenges of juggling childcare and dependent care with shift work.
- Provide up-to-date, safe and healthy living and working spaces for all employees.
- Make around the clock healthy food options available for shift workers.
- Ensure that women designated spaces extend beyond dormitories to include exercise and activity facilities.
- Institute women-specific recreational and arts-based activities for off-hour shift workers.
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- Challenge the male-dominated work culture by hiring more women and Aboriginal women in supervisorial and managerial positions.
- Develop and implement zero tolerance policies for sexual harassment and intimidation in training, employment and camp life.
Workplace Injury Prevention
- Recognize and develop targeted strategies to lessen the diversity of shift work-related injuries and stressors across the sector, including mental, physical and emotional health.
- Provide on-site health promotion workers, including a counsellor and nutritionist.
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